HomeLatest NewsA Fiery Back and Forth in Bladen 12 Voir Dire

A Fiery Back and Forth in Bladen 12 Voir Dire

A Fiery Back and Forth in Bladen 12 Voir Dire

As we reported on Wednesday, the twelve men charged with the landing of a drug plane on the Southern Highway in November of 2021 appeared in court. The Head of the Prosecutions Branch, Alifa Elrington called her fifth and sixth witnesses of what will be ten persons called during this juncture of the trial, which is called a voir dire. That process is necessary because before the trial can continue, the senior magistrate who is presiding over the matter needs to be able to determine if there is even a case for the defendants to face if what they are claiming is true. Several of the men are claiming that the police abused them while they were in their custody. The arguments by the prosecution, headed by Elrington and by Attorney Leroy Banner for the defence, are fiery. News Five’s Marion Ali spent most of the day in the courtroom at the Charles Bartlett Hyde building and filed this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The first of two witnesses to take the witness stand on Wednesday was Police Corporal, Jose Uh, who has been with the Belize Police Department for twelve years. Now a corporal of police, he explained that at the time of the interception of the drug plane in November 2021, he was a police constable attached to the Quick Response Unit based in Belmopan. He told the court that at around twelve-thirty on the afternoon of November fifth, 2021, he was at home when he received a call from an Inspector Novelo, who asked him to record a caution statement from thirty-year-old Moises Perez, who was at the time detained at the Police Training Academy. Uh said that he asked Perez if he was giving the statement voluntarily, to which he responded “yes” and that after Perez said he had not eaten all night, he offered him food and water. He said he asked Perez if he knew why he was detained, to which Perz responded, “yes, for illegally bringing down an aeroplane.”


During the cross-examination, Defense Attorney, Leroy Banner challenged Uh strenuously on the way he carried out the process and suggested to Uh that he was aware of police brutality that Perez claims he was subjected to. Banner used a portion of Perez’ caution statement, in which he alleged that before Uh took his statement, a police officer kicked him so hard in his back that the officer’s service gun fell from its holster to the floor. In that statement, Perez also claimed that during his detention, a gun was shoved down his throat, demanding that he tell them quote, “where the things were” referring to drugs. Banner said to Corporal Uh, quote: “You’re aware that you must ask the detainee if he was beaten or if he was promised anything,” to which he responded “Yes.” And Banner contested, quote: yet, you did not say this in your three-page statement and did not tell the magistrate today,” suggesting that he was merely acting as a robot in taking the statement.


Uh repeated that the accused said he was giving the statement voluntarily. Though at one point, Uh admitted that Perez did tell him that an officer had kicked him in his back, and when he was pressed further by Banner on his reaction to this information, Uh said that he informed Inspector Novelo about it. Later on, he said that at no time Perez said he was in pain and that he (Uh) asked Perez if he wanted to see a doctor and he responded “no.” Banner pointed out that this was the first time since the arrests in 2021 that Uh has said this. Uh also told the court that he did not take any further action to find out if Perez was abused because he did not want to put himself further into the investigation. When Banner tried to suggest if it was because of Uh’s laziness that he did not find out if Perez was abused, the prosecutor, Alifa Elrington objected vehemently, arguing that the Defense should not be allowed to cast aspersions on the witness.


The Magistrate asked Banner to reword his question, but he elected to move on. The defense argued that Uh knew that the police had brutalized Perez and by him not doing anything about it essentially made him a part of that action. Furthermore, Banner asked, “how can he (Perez) give a statement voluntarily if he had a gun stuck in his mouth and was kicked in his back. The prosecutor rose to object, arguing that was not a question for the witness to answer. The next witness to be called was Martin Cal, a Justice of the Peace of twenty years who lives in Belmopan. He told the court that Corporal Uh called him on November fifth and asked him to witness the recording of Perez’ statement. He said that before they began to record the statement, he was given about ten minutes to talk in private with Perez and that during that time, he asked him if he was beaten and if he was giving the statement voluntarily.


He said Perez did not indicate to him at any time that he was beaten and he said he was giving the statement freely. He said he also heard when Corporal Uh told Perez that he did not have to give the caution statement and that he decided on his own to do it and that he indicated he preferred if Uh wrote out his statement for him instead of him writing it out himself. Cal aid the officer also gave him food in his presence. When the defense asked for his observations of Perez, he said he appeared to be calm. The case was adjourned until next Monday, April eighth, when Cal is expected to return to court for the completion of his testimony. Marion Ali for News Five.

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