Bench warrant issued for key prosecution witness
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 7, 2018– Almost one year ago, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) affirmed a Belize Court of Appeal decision that three men, Orel Leslie, Brandon Baptist and Tyrone Meighan, who were accused of the 2012 murder of ex-Belize Defence Force soldier James Noralez, should get a new trial by a different judge as soon as practicable.
That new trial was scheduled to begin this morning before Supreme Court Justice Colin Williams, but the court was unable to proceed with the trial because the key prosecution witness, Aaron Paquil, failed to show up at court, so the matter was adjourned to the afternoon session.
When the court convened this afternoon, Paquil was still a no-show, and this prompted Senior Crown Counsel Sheiniza Smith to make an application for a bench warrant for him.
Apart from making the application for a bench warrant, Smith asked for an adjournment to Monday, June 11, to give her time to locate and present her witness.
Six other witnesses turned up at the court today, but Crown Counsel Smith told the court that she would not call them, because without the evidence of the key witness, “the evidence of the other witnesses would be unnecessary.”
Justice Williams noted that the matter was scheduled to begin on May 30, then noted, “but there was an issue and it had to be pushed back until today. If we don’t take any evidence today, that means that we have lost 8 trial days.”
Attorney Bryan Neal, who is representing Brandon Baptist, told the court, “What struck me is that my learned friend has not said that if this witness is not produced, what will happen on Monday.”
Neal wanted to know whether an application to strike out the matter could be made.
Attorney Ellis Arnold, S.C., who is representing Orel Leslie, said, “they don’t want to come back on Monday and the prosecution still doesn’t have their witness. We would like to hear from my learned friend what would happen on Monday.”
Justice Williams asked attorney Anthony Sylvestre, who is representing Tyrone Meighan, if he would still address the court.
Sylvestre rose and told the court, “My client is out on bail, so I have nothing to say.”
Crown Counsel Smith rose to address the concerns of the defense counsels, telling the court, “If he is not located, the Crown will have to take the necessary action to have the matter disposed of.”
After explaining what would happen if her witness is not located, Crown Counsel Smith made an application to the court to issue a bench warrant for Aaron Paquil to be brought to court on Monday. This was granted by Justice Williams.
Following those formalities, the six witnesses who were waiting outside were called into the courtroom and told that their presence was appreciated, but they would have to return on Monday.
Noralez’s murder occurred on the night of November 23, 2012. He was killed execution-style, and his body was dumped at the junction of Fabers Road and the Western Highway (now George Price Highway) on the night of November 23, 2012. Noralez was shot a total of 14 times—he had one bullet wound in the left side of his neck; three bullet wounds in the left side of the chest; four in the upper shoulder; one under the left armpit; one in the left upper arm; one in the left side of the chin; one in the right side of the eye; one in the left side of his upper back; and one in the back of his head.
On March 1, 2018, Orel Leslie and Tyrone Meighan appeared in the Supreme Court of Justice Dennis Hanomansingh along with their attorneys, Ellis Arnold and Dickie Bradley, for a bail application hearing.
Justice Hanomansingh released Leslie and Meighan on a bail of $25,000 each.
The bail condition stipulated that the men were not to be out after 9:30 in the night, but on his first night of freedom, Leslie was seen by a police officer at a nightclub on Newtown Barracks and he was apprehended and taken before the court, and his bail was revoked.
Brandon Baptist was never freed after the trio was acquitted on a no-case-to-answer submission when they were first tried before Justice John Troadio Gonzalez in October 2015.