Viewers may remember the Shoman 5; they were a group of 5 men who convicted in March 2011 of attempting to rob and kill businessman Jose Shoman Jr. Well, tonight, 4 of those men are in the process of being freed and released from prison due to major developments in the Court of Appeal.
They were 47 year-old Miguel Mayorga and 27 year-old Cesar Aldana, who were sentenced to 14 years in prison, and 21 year-old Jose Cordova, 21 year-old Eswin Rosalez, and 22 year-old Carlos Juarez who were sentenced to 12 years in prison on a combination of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. A jury deliberated and found them guilty on testimonies that on December 12, 2008 two of Shoman's employees Eric Miranda and Hector Perez over-heard the five talking about a plot to kill and rob Shoman. They said Mayorga invited them to his house and told them he had some money for them and they were to leave the back gate to Shoman's premises open.
Police made a pre-emptive strike, and reportedly caught Mayorga with 2 loaded pistols, and they arrested and charged the 4 men in connection with this alleged plot.
Well, the 5 men appealed their conviction last year with the help of their attorneys Hubert Elrington and Leo Bradley Jr., and today, the Court of Appeal delivered the stunning judgments in their favor. The Appeal Court not only allowed the appeals from Mayorga, Cordova, Eswin Rosales, and Juarez; they quashed the conviction and sentence from the Supreme Court, and entered them in a not guilty verdict.
That's right; the Court of Appeal acquitted these 4 men based on their appeal, so the media spoke to one of their defence attorneys to explain this development. Here's what he told us:
Leo Bradley Jr. - Attorney for the Defense
"I represented one individual who was Miguel Mayorga. Senior Counsel Hubert Elrington represented the other applicants who were Eswin Rosalez, Jose Ismael Cordova, Carlos Juarez and Cesar Jr Aldana. What the court did - if I can go primarily to the one that was dismissed - they dismissed one appeal, and that appeal was dismiss for Cesar Jr Aldana. What that means is that he needs to return and serve out his sentence, the other 4 has - their sentence has been quashed, a sentence of acquittal have been entered, and so basically once the formalities of whatever paper work needs to be done, they will be free to go."
"What's the significance of this because it was raved that these men were - it was an open shut case against them?"
Leo Bradley Jr.
"Well Mr. Elrington and myself based the appeal on several grounds - several submissions. I haven't had the opportunity of reading the decision. After I read the decision, I'd be in a better position to say but my belief is that it might have come down to the question of whether or not any of these individual said yes. For you to conspire, you need to agree to conspire. You need to say yes; I will be a part of this whatever job or whatever it is that we're going to do. Like I've said, I'm speaking without having read the decision, but I have a feeling that was what it came down to, as far as the Court of Appeal judges in their decision."
"Tell us about how long your clients have been incarcerated."
Leo Bradley Jr - Attorney
"They, I believe, have been incarcerated since March of 2011, and that plays a little role with my client Miguel Mayorga, because Miguel Mayorga had a separate charge of, I believe it was possession of a firearms. So, we need to cross check whether or not his time has been served as well, and I wouldn't want to speak about that because that is a prison issue. They would really have to make the determination as to whether or not he has served his time. But basically the prison needs to check that and then they will see what his position is."
"So what rights do your clients have, now that the conviction has been overturned?"
Leo Bradley Jr - Attorney
"Well my client is - from my understanding or my instructions are that my client is a Honduran National and the other 3 - Mr. Elrington's 3 clients whose appeal was upheld, they're Guatemalan citizens. We are in contact with both embassies, and they're going to assist us to see how quickly they can get them out."
In relation to Cesar Aldana, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal and upheld his conviction. Mayorga still has the convictions for firearm offences in which police busted him with those weapons, so of the 3 he may still have to serve out the rest of that 2 year sentence. The Belize Central Prison will have to make the determination if he has served the full time.