By Aaron Humes
BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 10, 2014
Convicted killer, Lavern Longsworth, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of her common-law partner, David White, may receive a reduced sentence, because new evidence brought before the Belize Court of Appeals on Tuesday seeks to show that she was suffering from battered women’s syndrome at the time of the crime.
According to Longsworth’s attorney, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, the “fresh evidence” is intended to show , she had “diminished responsibility” for her actions as she was suffering an “abnormality of the mind.”
Justices Dennis Morrison, Samuel Awich and Minnet Hafiz-Bertram heard the appeal, which serves as another legal first for Belize, as it’s the first time battered women’s syndrome has been used as a partial defense to a crime
The court accepted the testimony of British forensic psychiatrist and expert in domestic violence and mental abuse, Dr. Gillian Mezey, who had interviewed Longsworth.
Mezey completed her report shortly after the appeal was first brought up in March.
Smith says the evidence now before the court was not introduced at the trial by attorney Kevin Arthurs as there was no foundation.
There was no challenge from the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal.
However, the two sides must sit down to confer on an appropriate sentence if, as expected, the court reduces the charge from murder to manslaughter.
Smith says that while his client had hoped to be fully acquitted, he has counselled her to accept this disposition.
He added that he expects that there will be subtraction of time already served, which is about a year and seven months, from the sentence.
White, 32, died from an infection due to second-degree burns to ninety percent of his body, caused by Longsworth throwing kerosene on him after an argument and setting him on fire at their Castle Street home in July of 2010.
According to Belize’s laws, any unlawful but unintentional (that is, by provocation, or accident, or through intoxication) death amounts to manslaughter and not murder.
Longsworth, who has never denied attacking White, claimed self-defence at trial and has testified that she regretted her actions.
She further explained that her relationship with White was characterized by abuse.
Longsworth had spoken extensively to members of the press immediately after the incident and those interviews were admitted in evidence at the trial.
The case goes back to court on June 20.