Because of Caribbean Court of Justice ruling, the men must be sentenced to a fixed prison term
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Oct. 9, 2019– Recently, four convicted murderers appeared in the Supreme Court before Justice Cumberbatch to be re-sentenced according to the new sentencing regime for capital offences.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision in the Alwin Gabb and Gregory August appeals has ushered in a new regime of sentencing for persons convicted of murder in Belize. The CCJ ruling came shortly after the Belize Court of Appeal had ruled in 2016 that life in prison without the possibility of parole was “inhumane.”
In the past, prisoners who were convicted of murder were automatically sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
The Gabb and August appeals, however, have changed that, and now, convicted murderers must be given a fixed date sentence, because the CCJ had found that judges have that discretion to impose such a sentence. As a result, all prisoners who were sentenced to life in prison must now be re-sentenced. There are 44 prisoners serving life sentences, according to the Death Penalty Project, which assisted in the Gabb and August appeal at the CCJ.
In January 2004, Jeremy Harris and Deon Slusher were convicted of the execution-style murder of businessman Phillip Chin, and they were sentenced to death, but in June of the same year, the Court of Appeal quashed the death sentence and commuted their sentence to life in prison Justice Cumberbatch sentenced Harris, 39, to a prison term of 25 years before he is eligible for parole. Harris’ sentence is to run from the time he was first remanded to prison for Chin’s murder on February 22, 2002. Harris has been behind bars for 17 years and he has 8 more years before he becomes eligible for parole.
Harris and Slusher tied up Chin at his home and proceeded to rob him of all the valuables he had that could be sold. They then shot him three times, in the back, chest and the head. They described to two females what they had done to Chin, and laughed as they described their crime.
Wayne Martinez was tried and convicted for the October 10, 2005 murder of Rene Castillo. Martinez was convicted for Castillo’s murder on June 7, 2007, and the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on February 29, 2008.
Justice Cumberbatch sentenced Martinez, 38, to twenty years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. Martinez’s 20-year sentence is effective from his remand date on October 11, 2005.
Martinez was charged along with his brother, Norris Martinez, for the stabbing death of Castillo. The jury acquitted Norris of the murder and found Wayne guilty.
Miguel Herrera was convicted on February 18, 2007 for the murder of Mirna Figueroa. The murder occurred in the Stann Creek District, and his appeal against the conviction and sentence to life in prison were heard on 5th and 19th June, 2009, respectively and was dismissed. The following year, 2010, the Privy Council turned down Herrera’s appeal.
Justice Cumberbatch sentenced Herrera, 55, to 35 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole.
Herrera threatened that if his girlfriend left him, he would kill a family member of hers. The girlfriend left him and he carried out his threat and murdered his girlfriend’s sister. Before he murdered his victim, he forced her to perform fellatio on him in the back of a truck. He also forced others to have sex with her. After murdering the woman by strangulation, he hid her body and it was not until five days after the murder that her decomposed body was discovered.
Phillip Tillett was convicted on June 17, 2003 for the murder of Kirk Lee Gentle and sentenced to life in prison. The Court of Appeal heard his appeal against his conviction on July 5 and October 27, 2006, and dismissed his appeal.
Tillett stabbed Gentle in his chest with a knife with a 7-inch blade, because he felt that Gentle had disrespected his mother.
Justice Cumberbatch sentenced Tillett, 41, to 25 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole.
In determining the sentences of the four convicts, Justice Cumberbatch looked at the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of each case.
In the re-sentencing hearing, the Crown was represented by Crown Counsel Jacqueline Willoughby.