By Aaron Humes
Free Lance Reporter
Glenford Baptist, 44, who was sentenced to be hung by the neck until dead, for murder in 2001 became the last man to leave Belize’s death row, as the Supreme Court quashed his sentence on Monday.
Baptist, who had been incarcerated awaiting execution for nearly 14 years, will now face a re-sentencing hearing before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin in October.
Pricilla Banner, a former Crown Counsel, presented the case pro bono, with the assistance of English firm Simons and Muirhead.
Baptist’s case argued that the length of time between his sentencing and the current appeal, some 13 years and 8 months, left him subject to violation of his Constitutional rights under section 7, to not be treated inhumanely. His attorney also noted that his automatic sentence of death for conviction of murder by firearm was incorrect, as presented in the local case of Patrick Reyes and the Queen, decided by the Privy Council in 2002.
Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, appearing for the Attorney General, conceded that Baptist’s Constitutional rights were indeed violated.
The matter has been adjourned for October 8th, for the court to hear arguments as to what appropriate sentence Baptist should get.
Baptist and the now-deceased Gilroy Wade and Oscar Catzim Mendez were accused of killing Azrin White on July 24, 2000, in a reported retaliation for an alleged kidnapping. The prosecution’s evidence in the 2001 trial was that Baptist held the gun when he and the other men went to Iguana Street on the night of Azrin White’s murder. He handed the weapon over, and his partner shot White at point blank range. White fell dead in the drain, and all three men rode off.
Then-Supreme Court Justice and current Attorney General Wilfred Elrington handed down the death sentences in November of 2001. On appeal at the Court of Appeal, Mendez won his case, but Wade and Baptist’s appeals were dismissed. Wade was later killed in a jailhouse murder in November of 2007.
Belize has not executed a man since teenager Kent Bowers was hung in June of 1985. The death penalty statute, however, remains on the law books.