Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2023. 10:23 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A recurring theme in High Court Justice Antoinette Moore’s courtroom this afternoon in Belize City was “all things are possible.”
The prosecution believes it has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt that, while not intentional, ex-police corporal Kareem Martinez unlawfully harmed Laddie Gillett, 14, to the point of death on a windy night on the Placencia beach exactly 20 months ago today.
The defense believes it has created sufficient reasonable doubt that someone else may have fired that fatal shot and that Martinez is not guilty of the charge of manslaughter.
And Gillett’s family believes that one way or another they will get justice for a young man whose life was taken far too early for seemingly no reason.
While a verdict was not issued today, the court heard once more from a ballistics expert who was asked if it is possible that a bullet fired in the air could hit someone in the back who was in a standing position while either walking or running. While her knowledge of trajectory is limited, the expert said that it is possible given environmental factors such as wind and gravity – but added that a nine-millimetre bullet travels so fast and so far that it would have little time to decrease speed before striking someone, and would normally hit on the head or shoulder if the person is standing.
But it was Senior Crown Counsel Javier Chan who reminded the court that the pathologist Dr Loyden Ken’s report specified in examining Gillett’s body that the bullet entered Gillett’s back about 18.5 inches or 47 centimeters from the top of his head and exited his upper chest at about 43 centimeters or nearly 17 inches from the top of his head, indicating an upward trajectory not consistent with a bullet fired at a point ten feet off the ground at a distance of 90 feet to the target – the claim of Martinez in his dock statement and statements to police.
The defense’s suggested that a different officer fired from behind Martinez’s line of sight and that perhaps they fired at the same time, followed by the said officer picking up the expended shell. However, Chan said in his closing submission that just the one expended shell was recovered from the scene and that it was found to have been fired from Martinez’s Department-issued pistol, to which he had admitted.
And minus the point about bullet trajectory and who fired where and at whom, Chan reminded the court that nothing was adduced as to any of the officers present being in mortal danger from two teenagers running away from them and who were not carrying weapons, and that the Police’s internal manual makes clear that firing a weapon, not in the defense of self or another, would make the officer liable to criminal as well as disciplinary charges.
Small wonder then, that Laddie’s biological mother Linda says that in addition to obtaining justice for her son, she wants a judgment to be an object lesson for officers: “Deal with [Kareem Martinez], find him guilty – maybe some other police weh like brutalize other people children and shot people pikni like dehn da bird – maybe if they deal with him and put a stop to it with people like him maybe the rest will think [twice before] go shoot people pikni how dehn feel like.”
Laddie’s foster father Emil Bradley acknowledged that the defense is obviously trying to do its job for Martinez, but the evidence is incontrovertible: “He could jump high, he could jump low, he could say weh ih want, the point is there was evidence of only one shot that has been fired and that shot was fired from the issued gun by Kareem.”
But Martinez’s defense attorney Oscar Selgado was not in any mood to play to public sentiment: “I am telling you that is the evidence and I cannot comment on the evidence. And I don’t know how you would know. I did not give the media a glimpse of my closing submission; that was for the court only and that is why I didn’t want the prosecution or anybody to comment on it because you were there in the court, you heard what you heard, but the matter is before the court. I will not breach the ethics of the profession to comment on it as other attorneys have done. But what is before the court is what is before the court and if I don’t get what I expect, I will go to the Court of Appeal.”
Before it gets there, however, there is the weighty matter of a verdict, to be delivered on April 21 at 9:30 in the morning in Belmopan – the third courtroom in the country to host this case after Dangriga in Stann Creek and Belize City where the judge is currently sitting due to administrative issues.
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