Features — 21 March 2018
All we ask for is the truth, Mr. Oscar

You’re not alone, Brother, but since you’re so vocal about your defense I decided to address this letter to you. I believe you and your colleagues see that all is not well in our country. The murder rate in Belize is not on a downward trend. It has been going up, up, up. Before you and your criminal lawyer colleagues were born, Belize was dubbed a tranquil haven of democracy. Belize was different from its neighbors. We were the stone the builders praised. And then it all started to crumble.

A Peter H. on the web has us as the third most murderous nation on the planet. Honduras, with 90.4 murders per 100,000 citizens takes top place as the most hellish place on earth. Venezuela is second, at 53.7; Belize is third, at 44.7; El Salvador is fourth worst, at 41.2; and Guatemala is fifth, at 39.9.

Belize is different from these countries in two significant ways. Belize doesn’t have a history of violence. If you look at those other four countries in the five worst, we see that they aren’t strangers to bloodshed.

The people of Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, and El Salvador know life as militarized states. Their people know dictatorships, oligarchical rule, and poor land distribution (peasants don’t have land). Belize, as we sing in our national anthem, was a tranquil haven.

These countries have millions of citizens, while Belize has fewer than 400,000. The Wikipedia says Venezuela has 31.5 million people (a population density of 89 per square mile); Honduras has 9.1 million people (a population density of 209 per square mile); Guatemala has 16.6 million people (a population density of 395 per square mile); and El Salvador has 6.3 million people (a population density of 775 per square mile).

Belize has a population of 367,000 and a population density of 41 per square mile. It is hard to imagine what Belize would be like if we coupled the types of leaders and justice system we have with a past that is similar to those countries and a population like theirs. Our present murder rate is absolutely terrible. If we didn’t have these differences our murder rate most likely would be much worse.

There are a number of reasons for the violence our country is experiencing. This arrow is aimed at one only. There was a time when murder in our country didn’t go unpunished. In that time murder wasn’t epidemic. Then we stopped getting guilty verdicts in murder cases.

There are a number of negative implications whenever a person guilty of murder is set free. One of them is that the person who escaped justice becomes a magnet, a hero for young people with violent inclinations. No sane society will want to give heroes from the dark side to such impressionable young minds.

It is clear that a person who takes a life has lost touch with God. How can you destroy what you could never, ever make? I read the other day that before Jeffrey Dahmer (the man who killed and ate people) was bludgeoned to death in prison, he had become a born-again. God is the sole judge of souls so none of us can say we or any other person will have a higher station than Dahmer in the next world. Maybe murder can be forgiven in heaven. Down here you must pay for the crime.

We were the tranquil haven of democracy. Now we are the craziest of the crazies on the planet. As I implied three paragraphs back, I believe you and your colegas have some responsibilty for this collapse.

I say, you have every right to say what you said to the media about your being defense counsel for the young man who is accused of violating and causing the death of a 17-month-old girl child. No, there is nothing wrong with what you said, as recorded by Channel Five and Channel Seven.

Here’s what Channel Seven News records you saying on March 5…There was no rape of any child. It was an attempt. The presumption of innocence is a guarantee in our constitution…There is an attempt on these things [carnally knowing a child] and it is an allegation made by the Crown. Until that allegation is proven, my client is innocent and he must be given that opportunity to be innocent and to remain innocent until he is found guilty or otherwise…”

Channel Five News records you saying, on March 6, “I am not moved by the public; law is reason free from passion. And I have no regret in taking this case. This is my job; I’m a criminal defense attorney, I am trained for this. And one of these days when those casting stones out there – when the table is turned and one of them is accused of a heinous crime, I will be there for them too. So I am here for every Belizean that needs representation. And like I state, I am here without fear or favour; I am here with the law. Justice is about defending, not just about prosecuting. It is about applying the law to the facts. So I have no regret in representing Everal Martinez at all, and I have no fear, no fear in representing him, any at all.”

Again, I respect most everything you say. You are perfectly correct when you say that young man deserves to be tried in court, that he is innocent until proven guilty. I would ask you to not go so hard on us. The people of a country would have to be dead inside if they didn’t express outrage when they are informed of a monstrous crime.

I will not speculate about what happened to the child. The brilliant new modus operandi passed down to the law enforcers is that they release next to nada about what happened, that to protect the “court case” of the state. When people don’t have facts they think things. The people have a right to know everything that happened to that child.

As I said, I am with you for most of what you said. You said, for instance,”When one of them is accused of a heinous crime I will be there for them too.” Much respect to you for being there. The young man deserves a dedicated defense attorney. We have no quarrel with that. The pertinent question for us is HOW you carry out that defense. I think we should get straight to it. Sir, will your defense be based on TRUTH? Or will it be based on DECEPTION?

If Mahatma Ghandi were your hero we’d be with your defense tactics all the way, Mr. Oscar. You are aware of him. He is just one of the five brightest lights of the last century. It obviously doesn’t turn your stomach that your client might be demonic. Then I don’t see why this bit from the introduction of Mohandas K. Ghandi’s book, The Law and the Lawyers, should interfere with your production of hydrochloric acid.

“If there was one characteristic more than another that stamped Gandhi as a man amongst men, it was his extraordinary love of truth…As he (Mahatma) observes, “My principle was put to the test many a time in South Africa. Often I knew that my opponents had tutored their witnesses, and if I only encouraged my client or his witnesses to lie, we could win the case. But I always resisted the temptation…

“… According to him the greatest wrong a lawyer could commit in the process of law was to be a party to the miscarriage of justice… He had been known to retire from a case in open court, and in the middle of the hearing, having realized that his client had deceived him. He made it a practice to inform his client before accepting his brief, that if, at any stage of litigation, he was satisfied that he was being deceived, he would be at liberty to hand back his brief, for, as an officer of the Court, he could not knowingly deceive it.”

Is there any among you who could say that they are about TRUTH, Mr. Selgado? Can you say that, Sir? Some time ago you bragged about how many people you had gotten off in murder cases. Tell me, I’d like to know, who are the heroes the professors at the law schools in the Caribbean hold up for you youngsters to emulate? Are those artists who worked for OJ Simpson portrayed as heroes or villains?

You are a pretty young guy, so we can hope. Some of your colleagues are waist deep into the world of morbid. They have “jranco stomach”. If you aren’t that way, one day you will become sick of what is happening in Belize. Maybe, like Sedi, you’ll just walk away from that kind of practice. But maybe you’ll say, if I stop defending accused murderers that just opens the door for another Rasta to come and star, and collect the pay.

You’re into “color” so I expect you’ll appreciate this, Mr. Selgado: A criminal lawyers’ Hall of Fame for Belize. We can have busts of the top ten stars of the last thirty or so years, and a chart showing their spectacuar records. Sedi Elrington said he didn’t lose a case so he’s in without question. I can see Mr. Sampson’s face, smiling down on us. I could be corrected; I think your magnificent streak came to an end a few months back. But you still make the trophy case.

You know what, Braa, it’s a wonder British men who stand accused of this crime don’t send over here for some of you. We can’t compete with them in football, but we’ve got them under our feet in the murder defense business. I am aware, the last time it was reported, that you guys were averaging a stunning 93% acquittal rate. Those dumb British lawyers are batting a paltry 61%. (See their official report (England and Wales) at the end of this article.)

We’ve got those English bohgaz cold on the per capita side of things too. There’s just not enough murders over there to make them a threat. And you know what, fat chance of them getting up there with us too. See, there’s an exponential thing associated with murder acquittals. The more guilty men go free, the more the violent crimes escalate. The truth here doesn’t get lost in the translation. A lot of men who commit murder did so because our state FOSTERED a climate for murder!

You, you and your friends, can help stop the violence. As an officer of the court you have a duty to truth. We are not asking you to play judge and jury. You are all intelligent, educated people, and you have the clients and the evidence before you. True, some people are expert liars. But you intelligent, educated guys ought to be able to read the rest like a book.

It is not right that a violent man goes unpunished. Surely justice is more important than personal glory. Your job, above all, is to help the system find the truth, Oscar. If you give us that, you can help defeat this criminal culture that has overwhelmed us.

Homicide – Office for National Statistics (statistics are for England and Wales)
www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice
Feb 9, 2017 – How many homicide cases have criminal justice system (CJS) outcomes?

Of the 571 cases currently recorded as homicide in the year ending March 2016, data on the case outcomes of the principal suspects at 14 November 2016 showed:
•    court proceedings had resulted in homicide convictions in 224 cases (39%)
•    court proceedings were pending for 170 cases (30%)
•    no suspects had been charged in connection with 119 cases (21%)
•    suspects had committed suicide in 27 cases (5%)
•    proceedings had been discontinued or not initiated or all suspects had been acquitted in 26 cases (5%)

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Deshawn Swasey

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