Headline — 03 November 2015 — by Rowland A. Parks
Viola Pook sentenced to 8 years for manslaughter

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 29, 2015–Today, Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas sentenced Viola Pook, 57, to eight years for manslaughter. Pook’s sentence came about after her murder conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal, her life in prison sentence was quashed and a new trial was ordered.

Pook, instead of going through with the murder trial, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Since she entered the criminal justice system, Pook has been diagnosed as suffering from battered women’s syndrome, a defense that was effectively raised in the Lavern “Anti-Christ” Longsworth case, which bears many similarities to Pook’s case.

Longsworth was convicted of murder and was sentenced to serve a life sentence, but upon appeal, her life sentence was lifted and she was sentenced to serve a shorter time in prison.

In reviewing the evidence in Pook’s case, Justice Lucas commented that on July 20, 2011, she was first convicted of the murder of her common-law husband, Orlando Vasquez, which occurred in Rancho Dolores on New Year’s Eve 2008.

Pook allegedly set Vasquez on fire by pouring kerosene oil over his body. Vasquez suffered burns to 70 percent of his body.

At the scene, PC Zuniga said he heard Pook utter the words, “Dah me set ah pan fire!”

That was the only evidence that the Crown had against Pook, and at the Court of Appeal, Pook’s attorney, Simeon Sampson, argued successfully against the use of that evidence to convict her.

On March 24, 2012, the court quashed her conviction and sentence and ordered a retrial. On April 2, 2014, she was arraigned on a lesser charge for manslaughter.

In imposing the eight-year sentence, Justice Lucas said that he heard Pook’s remorse for her actions and how sympathetic she was towards Vasquez’s family.

Justice Lucas also said that he had taken into consideration what the psychiatric specialist, who examined Pook, had to say. He had done an assessment on Pook on November 25, 2014, at the Belize Central Prison.

Pook had described her life with Vasquez as one of jealousy and violence. She told the psychiatrist about the many years of sexual abuse. That is why the doctor diagnosed her with battered women syndrome.

Before imposing the eight-year sentence, Justice Lucas added, “A woman who kills and is suffering from abnormality of the mind should not be found guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.”

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