General — 07 November 2018 — by Roy Davis (freelance reporter)
Phil Staine, 46, charged with murder, found guilty of manslaughter

His two brothers were acquitted of murder

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 5, 2018– Orlando Staine, 41, and Kareem Staine, 37, two of three brothers charged with the murder of BDF volunteer soldier Denver Villafranco, 23, walked out of the Supreme Court as free men today when they were told by Justice Adolph Lucas that they were found not guilty of the murder charge or any other charges. It was a trial without a jury.

The third brother who was charged, Phil Staine, 46, was not so fortunate. He was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. Justice Lucas said that he was not sure beyond a reasonable doubt that Phil intended to kill Villafranco. He said that Dr. Hugh Sanchez, who did the post-mortem examination on Villafranco’s body, had testified that the force used to thrust the knife or machete into the deceased’s body was “moderate to massive,” and that Villafranco died from the stab wound to his abdomen.

Justice Lucas said in cases where two inferences can be drawn, the inference more favorable to the accused must be adopted.

In the case of Orlando and Kareem Staine, the Crown, represented by Crown Counsel Portia Ferguson, had relied on the principle of joint enterprise, but Justice Lucas said there was no evidence that they knew that Phil had a knife and that he intended to stab Villafranco.

Justice Lucas has deferred sentencing until November 14 in order for Phil’s attorney, Bryan Neal, to prepare pleas for mitigation. Neal also represented Orlando and Kareem.

Villafranco was stabbed in the right side of his abdomen and beaten with a crowbar on the night of January 17, 2015, during a fight at the corner of Sunflower Street and Complex Avenue. He was left bleeding in a drain.

The Crown had relied mainly on the evidence of Rolando Ayala, aka “Gordo”, who testified that he saw Phil Staine stab Villafranco.

Another eyewitness, Selvin Castillo, had testified for the Crown, but Justice Lucas did not accept his testimony because there were inconsistencies between that testimony and the statement he gave to the police.

Castillo had testified that he saw Phil Staine stab Villafranco in the left side of the abdomen, but in his statement he said that he saw Phil making punching motions at Villafranco and Dr. Sanchez had testified that the stab wound was in the right side of Villafranco’s abdomen.

Also, Justice Lucas said that it was Castillo who drove the brothers in his vehicle from the scene and Castillo had his own interest to serve.

All three brothers gave statements from the dock in which they admitted that they were involved in the fight with Villafranco, but they denied that they inflicted the stab wound. They said that it was Castillo who did the stabbing.

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