By Marion V. Ali
Wilbert Cuellar, who was found guilty by a jury in December of 2011 and upon his appearance for sentencing, was freed by the trial judge, is scheduled to appear before the Court of Appeal in the February/March session on Monday, February 24th.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing the decision of Justice Dennis Hanoomansingh, who upon the day of sentencing in 2011, used his jurisdiction to stay the verdict and released Cuellar on grounds that he [Hanoomansingh] was not convinced that Cuellar was given a fair trial because neither the prosecution nor the defense called a witness who he believed could have assisted the jury in their deliberations.
The normal course of action upon conviction and sentencing is that the accused would be taken to jail while he awaits his appeal.
In this case, however, it is the Prosecution that is appealing the stay of the guilty verdict – an unusual outcome in the history of Belize’s courts.
In offering a reason for his decision, Justice Hanoomansingh said that he did not think that Cuellar’s time behind bars would have been just while he waited to exercise his right to an appeal.
Cuellar was tried along with Darwin Diaz for the attempted murder of Josue Chay.
The charge against them followed an altercation between Diaz and Chay at a football field in Orange Walk during which Chay suffered severe chop wounds on both arms and on his head. It is alleged that following that, Cuellar pummeled him on the head with a cement block.
Diaz is serving a 12 year sentence for his guilty verdict.