General — 10 February 2012 — by Aaron Humes
Belize’s first trial without jury
Legislated last June after public pronouncements by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in the wake of multiple shootings of Chinese businesswomen in Belize City in April, the concept of “trial without jury” for murder and murder-related offenses has yet to be tested in open court, but the end of this month should see that changed.
  
Ricky Valencia, 28, and Akeem Thurton, 20, will be tried for the attempted murder of Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams outside his law offices on Albert Street on May 31, 2010.
  
Williams, 54, partner of the Prime Minister in Barrow and Williams Law Firm, was on the street with a security guard, having left his office, when two assailants rode up on bicycles, searched the guard (but did not harm him), then shot Williams once in his abdomen. The bullet tore through his abdomen and caused severe loss of blood, necessitating his being flown out for life-saving treatment in Miami, Florida.
  
A motive for the incident has not been publicly determined, and the Prime Minister denied knowing of any plot or indeed, reason, for the attack on his law partner.
  
The case was called before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin on Monday, but neither accused had retained the services of an attorney in time to start the trial.
  
The matter was adjourned to Wednesday, February 8, but Amandala was informed that while Valencia has now retained Arthur Saldivar, Thurton is still without an attorney and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, told the Chief Justice that due to the serious nature of the charge, it would be in the best interests of justice if both men were with representation at trial. (The court could arrange representation if the charge was murder, but not for other offenses).
  
The Chief Justice then adjourned the matter for trial, no more delays, on February 27, 2012.

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