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Bladen 12 trial continues

GeneralBladen 12 trial continues

Photo: Attorney Leeroy Banner

Police officer did not ask in interview if accused was beaten

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 26, 2024

The voir dire in the trial of the Bladen 12, accused of landing a drug plane in November 2021, continued today after a week off. The Crown concluded re-examination of the second witness, Sergeant Ortencio Pop, and a third witness, police officer Carlos Valladares was called. The Court then had to sort out an issue regarding whether or not he was on the reduced list of witnesses agreed upon. Senior Magistrate Baja Shoman declared that the Crown can call any of the witnesses on the long list of 78, and pointed out that the defense can seek an adjournment if, as in this case, there is a witness who is not on the short list.

Valladares was the officer who conducted an interview in Spanish with one of the accused, Juan Esparza Sanchez. It was done in the presence of a Justice of the Peace, and Valladares testified that it was freely given. The defense claims he was beaten and therefore seeks that utterances Sanchez made in the field not be entered into evidence.

During cross examination by defense attorney Leeroy Banner, Valladares accepted that he should have asked during the interview if Sanchez was beaten, but he did not. Banner put it to Valladares that this was because he knew beforehand that Sanchez had, in fact, been beaten. Co-counsel, Richard “Dickie” Bradley explained the importance of this during questioning.

In the afternoon session, the prosecution was seeking an adjournment, as the next witness in line was unavailable due to an emergency. However, after defense attorney Banner vehemently objected, the Magistrate asked that the Crown continue with another crown witness, ASP Roberto Novelo, who was available. Novelo, who is attached to the Anti-Narcotics Unit, became the investigating officer when the case was passed to him. He charged the 12 accused. His testimony focused on the interaction he had with Juan Esparza Sanchez as well as Moises Adan Perez. The defense is asking that Perez’s caution statement not be admitted into evidence, as it was not freely given.

ASP Novelo testified that on November 7, 2021, the day after he cautioned Sanchez, Sanchez complained of pain to the ankle, and so he issued him with a medico legal form and he was taken to the hospital for treatment. According to ASP Novelo, in the 20 or so minutes he interacted with Sanchez the day before, he did not observe any injury on him.

As to Perez, ASP Novelo told the Court under oath that Perez witnessed the Anti-Narcotics Unit process the 22 bales of cocaine that amounted to 822 kilos. That lasted about 12 hours. ASP Novelo reported that Perez asked to speak to him privately, as he wanted to share details about the plane landing. Novelo says he cautioned Perez and asked him if he was willing to have what he stated written down; and when he said, yes, ASP Novelo says he directed another officer to take down his statement. Novelo affirmed that Perez was not forced into making the statement.

The trial will continue through to Wednesday, after which there will be a pause until later in March, as the Senior Magistrate has to dispose of other matters, since all her time has been taken up with the Bladen 12 trial.

(Courtesy KREM Radio)

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