BELIZE CITY, Fri. May 8, 2015–A Belize City woman walked from a murder indictment this morning when Supreme Court Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez ruled that she acted in self-defense when she inflicted a fatal stab wound to the murdered victim, using his own knife with which he had threatened her. The case was heard by the judge, sitting without a jury.
Tears welled up in fifty-three-year-old Lucilla Barkley’s eyes as she stood in the prisoner’s dock, and Justice Gonzalez, after highlighting the reason for his decision, declared: “I therefore find the accused not guilty of murder; Lucilla Barkley, I discharge you. You are free to go.”
Barkley, a mother of five children, has been on remand at the Belize Central Prison since April 2011, when she turned herself in to police after fatally stabbing her ex-common-law husband, Osborne Gordon, 50, who allegedly was beating her and was threatening to kill her.
Before announcing his decision, Justice Gonzalez noted, “The prosecution did not present any eyewitness account of the incident that occurred at the corner of Cemetery Road and Curassow Street.”
He added, “I come to the conclusion that in the circumstances, the accused was justified in using the knife. The accused acted in lawful self-defense.”
On the night of the incident, Barkley, who was separated from Gordon at the time, was walking on Cemetery Road in the company of another man when Gordon suddenly emerged and began to threaten her, calling her names and allegedly telling her, “B__ch, you are going to die tonight.”
He allegedly told the man with whom she was walking not to intervene, otherwise he would get his share. The man then left the scene, leaving the two former lovers.
Gordon allegedly began beating Barkley and at one point, he pulled out a knife and ran it under her throat, without breaking her skin.
While Gordon continued to beat Barkley with his bare hands, Anthony Mayen, who was driving his van on Cemetery Road, stopped a short distance from where the beating was going on. When the vehicle stopped, Barkley attempted to jump into Mayen’s van, but Gordon prevented her from doing so.
Mayen, a witness in the case, had given police a statement. He was killed, however, before the case came up.
In the presence of Mayen, Gordon continued to beat Barkley and at some point while he was beating her, the knife that he was carrying fell to the street. The two of them struggled to get the knife. Barkley, somehow, managed to get ahold of the knife.
Barkley, who was defended by attorney Dickie Bradley, gave a dock statement in her defense admitting to the court that she stabbed Gordon and killed him in the course of his violent behavior towards her. She picked up the knife that had fallen from Gordon and fearing for her life, she stabbed him twice. One of the stab wounds she inflicted to his chest proved to be fatal and Gordon died from exsanguination.
“He was coming at me to beat me again, so I stabbed him twice,” Barkley said in her dock statement.
After the prosecution, which was represented by Crown Counsel Leroy Banner, closed its case, Bradley, in his address to the court said, “This case is not a case of use of excessive force.”
“The law is that there is no duty to retreat. A person who is under attack has no duty to retreat,” Bradley submitted.
Before acquitting Barkley from the murder indictment, Justice Gonzalez also noted, in respect of the prosecution’s evidence, which was led by Crown Counsel Leroy Banner, that, “One of the five elements of the charge, namely, the unlawful element, was not proven by the prosecution.”
In a murder trial, there are five elements that the prosecution must prove in order to secure a conviction; if any one of the five elements is missing, an acquittal will result.
After the hearing, Bradley told reporters, “Shortly after the incident she [Barkley] met a Justice of the Peace and related the full story how she was attacked … how she was trying to defend herself. How she believed the man would kill her because she had lived with him and he was a violent person and so on.
“That Justice of the Peace came to court and told the court that story. That story was in fact supported by the fact that she, then in the presence of that JP, went to the Queen Street Police Station and gave a written caution statement.
“So, his Lordship looked at the evidence briefly just now and his ruling was that she was not guilty and she is not going to return to Kolbe, as she has been doing over the past several days of the trial. She told me that she has not slept, and that if she had been found guilty, she would have taken her life. She had been in jail for four years, and ‘God is great.’”