The Central District of the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling on Monday, when Justice Denis Hanomansingh dismissed a nine count indictment of attempted murder against Miguel Angel Menjivar.
Menjivar was accused of attempted murder against nine members of the police’s Gang Suppression Unit, (GSU) after an early morning raid on his Belmopan, Las Flores home in search of illegal drugs on May 20, 2011.
The 13-hour search yielded no drugs. The GSU, however, fired more than 100 rounds into Menjivar’s house, killing several of his dogs and damaging portions of his home.
Menjivar was severely beaten and taken into custody, along with his wife and his children’s babysitter.
Both Menjivar and his wife were remanded to the Belize Central Prison, before they were granted bail by the Supreme Court. No charges were brought against his wife and babysitter.
But after careful analysis of the evidence presented by the GSU officers during the trial without jury, Justice Hanomansingh found that the GSU officers had acted as trespassers, when they stormed over Menjivar’s fence and knocked down his door to gain entry to his home.
Judge Hanomansingh also found that the search warrant the GSU used to legitimize their operation was legally flawed.
In his 14-page judgment, he said the Justice of the Peace, Modesto Madrill, who signed the search warrant, acted like a rubber stamp, because the GSU sergeant Gongora, did not present any evidence to justify his signing of the search warrant.
“The warrant issued in this instance under the Misuse of Drugs Act to search the premises of the accused was issued in contravention of the basic principles underlying the issuing of a search warrant and as such is invalid. I so find,” the judge wrote.
Menjivar, when he was first confronted with the uniformed, armed men outside his gate, called the Belmopan 911 operator more than once. This fact is substantiated by the testimony of police sergeant Marla Joseph. Menjivar also fired four shots from his licensed firearm to alert the intruders that he was armed.
Judge Hanomansingh found that even after the GSU had breached Menjiavr’s front door and had gained entry into his house, they continued firing their weapons inside.
“There was around 30 empty shells found by the Scenes of Crime Technician and the photographs showed the extent of the slugs damage to the interior walls of the house, which is a clear indication that the shooting by the Gang Suppression Unit continued in the house even after the door was breached.”
Judge Hanomansingh added: “There is no evidence of any alleged shooting by the accused after the door was breached.”
In dismissing the indictment against Menjivar, the judge noted: “I have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of the accused and his witnesses as being truthful and find that at no time did the accused have any intent to kill or attempted to murder any of the complainants in this indictment.”
Menjivar was defended by attorneys Dickie Bradley and Arthur Saldivar. The Crown’s case was presented by Crown Counsels Shemeiza Smith and Leroy Banner.
Following his acquittal, Menjivar told reporters that the GSU knew that they were wrong. He said that they never bothered to try to investigate him to see if he was dealing in drugs.
“They almost kill my family in my house. They could come to my place because they knew what time I close my business but they waited until I was asleep and they start to break my door and shoot all over my house without telling what is going on.”
Menjivar added, “Only because God looked over us, we are all alive. I don’t know how we survive. I don’t know how my children weren’t killed when they were running all over the house.”
Menjivar’s wife, Iliana Chacon, said her family was almost destroyed by the events of that morning.
“I was pregnant and when I came out of prison I was so traumatized that I spent four months of my pregnancy sleeping here at this place; sleeping on the floor, taking shower in the public restroom after we close. I couldn’t go to my house after four to five months,” Chacon said.
Attorney Saldivar remarked that the reputation of his client was totally destroyed by the action of the authorities in bringing this baseless accusation.
Saldivar said that Menjivar’s business has been totally destroyed and that he is not even able to meet his basic payroll, because of what was done to him by the state.
“We are here right now to celebrate yes the landmark ruling, but there is not much cause for celebration when we consider the loss,” Saldivar said.