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Bladen 12’s voir dire welcomes 2 new witnesses

GeneralBladen 12’s voir dire welcomes 2 new witnesses

Photo: Alifa Elrington, Head of Prosecutions Department

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 4, 2024

Progress was made this week in the ongoing Bladen 12 trial in Belize City as the voir dire proceedings continued into their sixth day on April 3.

The court scrutinized the admissibility of key pieces of evidence, including statements made in the field by one accused and a caution statement from another.

During Wednesday’s session, the court heard from witness Corporal Jose Uh, who recorded the caution statement of accused Moses Aiden Perez on November 5, 2021, at the Police Training Academy in Belmopan. A Justice of the Peace also testified, having been present during the recording.

Defense attorney Leroy Banner raised concerns during cross-examination about the treatment of Perez following his detention. According to Banner, Perez claimed he was physically assaulted by an officer, which led to his firearm falling from his person.

Further allegations included an officer forcibly placing a gun in Perez’s mouth to extract information about drugs supposedly offloaded from a drug plane. Perez also claimed he was not provided food while being made to search for the drugs with the officers.

Banner argued that the recording of Perez’s statement should have ceased upon learning of these allegations. When questioned about providing Perez with a medical-legal form, Corporal Uh stated that he had offered medical assistance to Perez, who allegedly declined, claiming he was fine.

The senior magistrate, after hearing these details, has decided to tender the statements into evidence.

“The person who recorded the caution statement testified today. It was tendered,” said defense attorney Leroy Banner outside of court. “At this stage, it’s just – we’re going through the process, then she will decide after hearing both sides if it was given freely and voluntarily, then she will admit it into evidence formally. So, right now it is just tendering into evidence; and if she decides, okay, I’m satisfied that it was given freely in compliance with the Evidence Act, I will admit it. But at this stage, no, we’re not at that stage yet.”

In addition to the evidence scrutiny, the trial also addressed security concerns raised by Elmer Nah, another accused in the case.

Nah, a former police officer implicated in a triple-murder case in Belmopan, expressed fears for his safety due to the involvement of a particular inspector in his security detail. The senior magistrate directed that such concerns should be managed through the Belize Police Department’s Professional Standards Branch.

Alifah Elrington, head of the prosecution branch, responded to these security complaints by clarifying the protocols for prisoner transport, especially in high-profile cases such as this.

“We’re dealing with a high-profile defendant; we have had to add security measures in the transporting of those two prisoners. So, what has happened is that GI-3 is assisting in the transporting of those two prisoners for this particular case,” Elrington stated.

“… if it is that he’s having a difficulty with a police officer – our police officer is doing something that he’s not required to do or he’s not expected to do as a police officer – the proper procedure was to make an official complaint through the Professional Standards Bureau of the Belize Police Department.”

“After that complaint was made, I subsequently got certain information as it relates to the actual transportation. So, there is actual video footage of the full transportation of Mr. Nah when he was picked up at the prison, when he was escorted out the prison doors, into the prison van, and the prison van is actually secured also with video cameras at the front and at the back. So, his entire transportation while he was on that prison van was also recorded.”

The voir dire is expected to see at least four more witnesses when it resumes on April 8.

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