By Aaron Humes
Free Lance Reporter
A man formerly sentenced to die by the hangman’s noose, escaped death this week, when the Supreme Court of Belize reversed the sentence and ordered him to serve 25 years for murder.
Glenford Baptist, 44, has served 13 years in jail and is still behind bars.
In sentencing Baptist, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin informed the court that Baptist’s sentence would be cut to 25 years, and is to begin from the date of conviction in 2001.
Taking into account time already served, it means Baptist will spend a further twelve years in jail, with the possibility of parole or release before then for good behaviour.
Baptist and his co-defendants, Gilroy Wade Jr., and Oscar Mendez were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in November 2001 by then Supreme Court Justice Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, after a jury found they had acted together to kill Azrin White on the night of July 24, 2000. Their initial appeals, except for Mendez’, were rejected at the Court of Appeal.
But the death sentence imposed by the Court was overturned earlier this year because the State took too long to execute Baptist and because the sentence was automatically given and not contested, both of which violated his Constitutional rights.
The Chief Justice considered in-person testimony from two speakers on Baptist’s behalf, concentrating on his rehabilitation, and affidavits from two others.
While the Chief Justice took notice of Baptist’s rough upbringing and efforts at rehabilitation, he had to weigh it against the deliberate and premeditated nature of his decision to have White killed.
Ruling out a life sentence, as it bears the same effect as a death sentence, the Chief Justice reached his decision with the understanding that Baptist would continue to serve his time and continue his rehabilitation. The father of two and now grandfather, is currently a practicing Muslim and counsellor to younger prisoners.
Baptist, Wade (now deceased) and Mendez (also deceased) were looking for another man that night on Iguana Street Extension, when they took notice of White, who was sitting with his girlfriend and had just come home from work. After an exchange in which Baptist threatened White, he gave a gun he was h to Mendez and told him:, “Do what you have to do,” meaning to shoot White, who died on the spot.