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Nov 17, 2017

2 Including Minor Freed of P.G. Taximan Murder Charge

Albert Valentine

Two men from Punta Gorda Town were today acquitted in the Supreme Court of Justice Denis Hanomansingh of a charge of murder. Twenty-four-year old Albert Valentine and a seventeen-year-old minor were charged in the death of taxi driver Antonio Rodriguez, originally from Elridgeville, on December fifteenth, 2015. Rodriguez’s body was found with multiple stab wounds in his taxi near the Joe Taylor Creek Bridge at the entrance to town, gun lying by his side. Rodriguez, a former soldier, picked up the pair as they were headed out to chop a yard. What started out as an alleged robbery became murder when according to Valentine, the minor began stabbing Rodriguez with a knife in the vehicle before they fled. But multiple conversations overheard by other witnesses and the statement of Valentine himself were ruled out as evidence in favour of conviction for several reasons. We get more from Valentine’s defense attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley.

 

Richard “Dickie” Bradley

Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney for Albert Valentine

“We challenged the confession statement, in what is called a trial within a trial; and during the hearing, the law says that it is the police who must prove that they obtained a confession without violating the rights of a person who is a suspect or who is being arrested and charged. And police could not do that; they could not give an account of where the accused was between the afternoon of the day they claim they got the statement, around five-thirty in the evening. We know from evidence that the investigating officer went to the Dangriga police station, took custody of Valentine and took him to Punta Gorda. When he was taken to Punta Gorda and placed in the lock-up, thereafter everything went hazy. However, we were able to get our hands on a medico-legal form. The Magistrate in Dangriga in January 2016, Emmerson Banner, based on complaints and the evidence presented to him, ordered that Valentine be taken to a government medical officer to be examined and it helped in the case for us that this man had been badly bruised and beaten and this was supported by the medical evidence.  There are many other reasons why the judge ruled that the statement really could not go in, based on the Evidence Act itself and on decisions of higher courts including the Belize Court of Appeal, a well-known case that we used, Lisandro Matu. The onus is on those who have custody of a person to say how it is that they got that statement, so the statement could not be admitted. And I would like to say publicly that the Crown Counsel in this case really put up a fight in relation to this case. She called every witness that could be available including additional evidence and additional witnesses, however without the confession statement, there was really nothing much to strengthen her case against the accused persons.”

 

In law, where two people are criminally charged for a joint enterprise, the evidence of one accused cannot be held against the other except against himself. While the minor, represented by Audrey Matura and Oscar Selgado, was able to go free today, Valentine is back behind bars pending another murder charge he has before the court. Christelle Wilson acted as Crown Counsel in the proceeding.

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