Chief Justice Rules on Mejia's Constitutional Appeal

Press Release, Belmopan, 30th July, 1996 - (BIS)
Chief Justice, Sir George Brown, says that judges should not interpret laws in such a way as would frustrate the intention of the Legislature. To do so would be an abuse of the Courts' power and authority and would bring the courts into disrepute in the public mind.

The Chief Justice goes on to say: "When the Legislature, which has the power to legislate, so legislates in clear and unambiguous terms and the Courts arrogate [assume] unto themselves a power to make nugatory [powerless] such legislation through "Construction", then it has the effect of emasculating the power of the Legislature. The end result is that Due Process of Law is chipped away and in the end even those very Courts become ineffective in their role of ensuring the Rule of Law in the society. The result is that the Rule of Law breaks down."

The Chief Justice's comments came in a Ruling delivered yesterday in the Matter of Herman Mejia, Pasqual Bull and Nicholas Guevara who are challenging the constitutionality of death sentences passed on them. Their cases had been remitted to the Supreme Court by the Court of Appeal for a rehearing, even though in the case of Wilfred Lauriano, a few months earlier, the same Court of Appeal had ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal where the Supreme Court had dismissed the application on the ground that it was frivolous and vexatious.

End of Press Release

In the press release above, Sir George Brown, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize, referred to his decision on July 29th to return the appeal of Herman Mejia et al to the Belize Court of Appeals. The appeal was made on constitutional grounds, maintaining that a death sentence is cruel and unjust punishment. In a conversation with Mr. Gian Ghandi, Solicitor General of Belize, he explained that this cycle of appeals is the second time the three condemned men have been through the appeal process. The process in these cases was as follows:

1) An accused is found guilty in a jury trial before the Supreme Court of Belize and sentenced to death by hanging.
2) An appeal is made to the Court of Appeals. The appeal is denied.
3) An appeal is made to the Privy Council in London. The appeal is denied.
4) A plea for mercy (regarding the death sentence) is made to the Belize Advisory Council. The plea is denied.
The process is started once again, this time on a constitutional motion. The Supreme Court denied the motion and it was appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals did not make a decision and returned the cases to the Supreme Court. This resulted in the decision made by the Chief Justice referred to in the press release. The constitutional appeal could still be heard by the Court of Appeals and then appealed to the Privy Council - the same route as already taken in the initial round of appeals.

Herman Mejia was found guilty of the February, 1994 murders of Ann Reilly Dines and her husband Alan Dines, residents of San Pedro. Belize City newspapers have consistently referred to the murdered couple as tourists; they were not. Ann Reilly was the author of over 50 books on gardening and was considered a world authority on roses. Alan Dines had recently retired from the British military. Just before the double murder, the couple had celebrated their first wedding anniversary.

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