|Mrs. Susana Eiley and Norman Eiley with their son Francis, one of the three newly freed men. |
The Privy Council in London on Wednesday overturned the conviction of three men convicted of the 2002 murder of 62 year old Justo Jairo “Galento” Perez. Perez was murdered inside his home at the corner of Pescador Drive and Ambergris Street on the 2nd of November 2002 in San Pedro Town. On August 13th, 2004, the three men namely Francis Eiley, Ernest Savery and Lenton Polonio were convicted of Perez’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. They subsequently appealed their conviction and by August of 2005, the Court of Appeals in Belize dismissed their appeal. After retaining the services of Attorney Antoinette Moore, the trio then further appealed to the Privy Council. The case was heard on June 8th, 2009 before a panel of 5 judges. On Wednesday morning in Her Majesty in Council, Chief Judge Lord Phillip handed down its decision overturning the conviction.
In summarizing their decision, Lord Phillip stated that, “the appellants (Eiley, Savery and Polonio) were convicted at their original trial solely on the uncorroborated evidence of one man, Frank Vasquez. Vasquez, who was apprehended at the scene of the murder with blood-stained shoes and clothing and who was originally charged with murder, later turned State’s witness. The Judicial Committee upheld the appellants’ case that the evidence of Vasquez could not safely support their convictions for murder.” Lord Phillips, in delivering the judgment of the Board noted that, “Mr. Vasquez had been caught literally red-handed at the scene of the crime and he was a prime suspect. In these circumstances, they commented that the decision of the prosecution to offer Vasquez immunity if he gave truthful evidence was on the face of it, surprising.”
The Law Lords of the Privy Council concluded that the conviction of Eiley, Savery and Polonio were unsafe, having regard to the nature of the evidence given by Mr. Vasquez, the circumstances in which it was given. Moore told The Sun that all three men are expected to be released in the next few days. Moore stated that, “all three men will be release after being imprisoned for seven years. They were unfairly, unsafely and unsatisfactory convicted of murder without sufficient evidence.” As of press time, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution was awaiting a written decree for the release of the three men.