AARON HUMES Reporting: The Court of Appeal has ordered the immediate sentencing of Wilbert Cuellar, who was found guilty by a jury of the attempted murder of Josue Chay but was not sentenced because Justice Hanomansingh felt his trial had been unfair.
In opening its first session of the year 2014, the Court set aside the order of trial judge Denis Hanomansingh issued two years ago when Cuellar and Darwin Diaz, convicted by a jury of nine, appeared before Justice Hanomansingh in Corozal Town for sentencing. Diaz was given twelve years but the Judge said it would not be fair to sentence Cuellar because he felt that a certain witness identified in the deposition would have been helpful to his and the jurors’ views of the case but had not been called by the prosecution though he was mentioned. Any time served by Cuellar, the judge said, would be unjust, and so he set him free.
In appealing the case, DPP Cheryl-Lynn Vidal this morning said that the judge erred in believing he had inherent jurisdiction to stay the indictment as it related to Cuellar, which had the effect of ending further activity thereunder. The judge could have allowed the witness to be called by the defense or called him himself, but instead he avoided his only course of action – to sentence Cuellar and let him appeal.
Attorney for Cuellar Michelle Trapp-Zuniga conceded that the judge’s actions were not correct and said that for all concerned the best option would be to remove the order and let the sentencing happen.
Cuellar was out free during the time between his aborted sentencing and today’s hearing but was ordered back into custody at the Hattieville Prison until he can be sentenced in the current session of the Northern Division of the Court. Justice Hanomansingh has moved on to the Cayo section of the Central Division of the Court, and is succeeded by Herbert Lord.
Chay was viciously chopped on the arms and head at a football field in Orange Walk and Cuellar is alleged to have hit him in the head with a cement block.
Diaz is appealing his sentence and conviction and that takes place this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. The presiding panel includes: President of the Court Manuel Sosa and Justices Samuel Awich and Minnet Hafiz-Bertram. Reasons in writing for the decision are expected at a later date.
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