Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2023. 6:34 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A fired-up defense counsel for Kareem Martinez, Oscar Selgado, insists his client got a raw deal from the State and the Police Department, as he begins planning an appeal to the Court of Appeal following his client’s conviction on Friday.
Selgado was first out of the courtroom after Justice Antoinette Moore’s decision and came straight to the waiting press to begin making his case – essentially laying the blame on the other police officers junior to then-Corporal Martinez who responded to the Placencia Beach Club on July 14, 2021: “With all respect to the court and the learned judge, I am of the opinion and of the view that the judge did not appreciate the evidence and did not give the evidence enough weight. I am saying this because the Police Department started off this entire case by doing a very poor investigation simply because two officers, Claude Augustine, and Michael Miranda, went out there and said I did not have a firearm or I did not fire a firearm, the police swallowed that line, hook, and sinker. They did not send any of the firearms taken by Miranda or Claude Augustine for ballistic examination. And a court properly directed, a jury properly directed – in this case, a judge sitting as a jury – can only dispel doubt if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Crown’s evidence is real. And in this case, only one gun was sent to the ballistic examiner for analysis, simply because Kareem Martinez was honest and said ‘I fired my firearm.’ The police said, okay good, he fired his firearm, he is the shooter, he is the person that killed Laddie Gillett.”
In Selgado’s view, the Crown presented no “ballistic proof” that the slug from which the expended shell was recovered at the scene matched the fatal wound, and Augustine’s alleged dishonest testimony on the witness stand created doubt as to who actually fired that night: “This whole case is premised around who fired that firearm; it’s not about whether it was lawful or whether it was justifiable, because lawfulness and justifiableness could only come when the firer is identified…”
Selgado also pointed to the testimony of ballistics examiner Sherilyn Lino, which he says was not properly weighted in the judgment, that it was possible for two weapons firing at the same time to sound as one, and further cited his own experience in ballistics as a former Belize Defence Force soldier. He also noted that Martinez was at a further distance, 90 feet, than the other officers as they surrounded Gillett and Thomas Palacio.
Selgado says he plans to advance the same argument at the Court of Appeal: “How can the court be satisfied without a reasonable doubt that they had not fired their firearms simply because an expended shell from their firearm was not recovered? They could have recovered it themselves; it was all at night. And the only way you could remove that doubt is by going to the ballistics examiner, to the National Forensic Science Laboratory, and say these weapons were not fired.”
While noting that the responding police, including his client, could not have known they would be confronting children, Selgado does endorse the judge’s view on the rights of children being protected and the limiting of the right to stop and search persons without reasonable suspicion as stated in the Constitution and says Police Commissioner Chester Williams should take heed, as police are trained generally for four months and given a weapon with no specific training to represent the State, who then prosecutes them if things go wrong.
As for sentencing for which a date has not yet been agreed, Selgado cites multiple precedents as to fair sentencing for the crime of manslaughter, which by law carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but in practice has been sentenced far more leniently. Martinez is on remand pending sentencing.
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