By Aaron Humes
A Belize City youth was acquitted of murder charges for the death of a reformed gang boss three years ago. The verdict came on Wednesday morning in the Supreme Court.
Justice Adolph Lucas told Corwin Bennett, 20, that he was not guilty of the January 2011 murder of 34-year-old Raymond “Killa” Gentle of Kraal Road.
According to Justice Lucas, who heard the case alone without a jury, the Crown’s prosecutors – Shanice Lovell and Portia Staine – had failed to prove with certainty that Bennett was the man who shot and killed Gentle while he was building a house at a work site in the Kraal Road area of Belize City.
Bennett gave four statements, both oral and written, to police officers following the incident.
Initially, he told police that he shot at Gentle, then he later claimed that he was in the area, but only scouting for the real trigger man.
Giving an unsworn statement at trial, Bennett claimed that he was coerced into confessing to the crime on separate occasions by the boss of the George Street gang and several of his associates.
The boss told him he had to take the rap because another young man who was being looked at by police could not be lost to the gang by being sent to jail, as he was working for them. Previous to that meeting, he was threatened with death, as was his family, if he did not confess.
Bennett’s defense attorneys, Baja Shoman and Michelle Trapp-Zuniga, had applied at trial to keep the statements out and attacked them in a no-case submission, which Justice Lucas turned down.
He said that he believed that Bennett spoke to the police of his own free will, and was not coerced by them. However, he said that the prosecutors had not in fact proved to him that the contents of the statements were true, and as a result, had not discharged their burden to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt of murder or any other crime.
The prosecution was also unable to get an eyewitness to the shooting, Gentle’s brother, Elvis Bevans, to positively identify Bennett in court. He had done so during a police identification parade prior to the trial.
Bennett denied committing the killing, saying he was elsewhere, working at the time.