BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 15, 2014
Brothers, Maurice, 30, and Emory Felix, 27, are expected to soon be released from prison, as Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal has indicated that she will not pursue another prosecution against the men.
A jury of eight men and four women were unable to reach a verdict in the Corozal Town Supreme Court, where they began deliberations at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday after Justice Troadio Gonzalez summed up the case on Tuesday afternoon. They emerged with the news six hours later.
The brothers were accused of killing mechanic Mitchum Heredia, 29, at his T-Street residence on April 10, 2006.
But two previous trials – one in October 2007 and another four years later – produced differing verdicts.
A 12-member jury sitting before Justice Adolph Lucas found them guilty, but the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial after finding that Justice Lucas misdirected the jury on dock identification.
A second jury sitting before Justice Herbert Lord four years later was unable to reach a verdict.
Common to all the trials was the testimony of main witness Romel Palacio, Jr., who said that he saw the brothers approach Heredia, who was in his Nissan Maxima vehicle, with guns drawn.
One of them spoke to him, Palacio said, and then both fired a shot to his head and continued to fire, resulting in fatal gunshot wounds.
Palacio Jr has since been killed, allegedly at the hands of individuals trying to silence him, and was thus unavailable to testify in this trial. However, the witness statement he gave police was admitted as evidence as the result of several “trials within a trial” conducted before the start of the case.
Romel Palacio’s father, Romel Sr., was also killed several years ago in what was believed to be an attempt to influence the trial by getting rid of witnesses.
For this trial, the prosecutor, Sheiniza Smith successfully applied for a change of venue, citing alleged jury tampering in the previous trials to Justice Gonzalez.
He asked her to present evidence, which she did, and agreed to move the trial
The Felix brothers each took the witness stand as they did previously, and gave alibi testimonies saying that they were elsewhere at the time of the incident.
DPP Vidal has indicated her intention to formally write authorities, including the Police and the Central Prison, explaining why no further prosecution will take place. When that formal notice is received the brothers are expected to go home.
The Felix brothers are being represented by attorney Arthur Saldivar, who says that jury tampering was never a consideration in the decision to move the case.
He cited extensive previous media coverage which might lead to possible bias against the pair, including what he called “rumours” about events that happened to persons close to the case, referring specifically to the death of the Palacios.
Saldivar said he had no proof of what happened to the Palacios and whether his clients were involved.
While he does believe they had no part of it, he cannot say anything definitively.
But what he can say is that due process took its course, and the evidence presented by the prosecution showed gaps that could not be reconciled by the jury.
The Felix brothers have been on remand at the Belize Central Prison for 8 years now.