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Kareem Martinez is Guilty of Manslaughter of Laddie Gillett

Apr 21, 2023

Kareem Martinez is Guilty of Manslaughter of Laddie Gillett

Laddie Gillett

Guilty – that is the verdict handed down today by Justice Antoinette Moore in the trial by judge alone for the manslaughter of Laddie Gillett. Former Corporal of Police Kareem Martinez stood trial earlier this year and today, almost two years after the fatal shooting of fourteen-year-old Laddie in Placencia, his fate was decided. Martinez was taken into custody and transferred to the Belize Central Prison until the date for sentencing. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

As early as eight-thirty this morning, family and friends of Kareem Martinez and Laddie Gillett gathered outside of the Supreme Court in Belmopan. It was the day set by Justice Antoinette Moore, back in March, for her ruling in the manslaughter trial against Martinez, accused of the fatal shooting of the teenager back in July 2021. As she handed down her guilty verdict, Justice Moore outlined that the evidence presented in the trial confirmed that the harm caused to the minor led to his death, there was no doubt that the accused fired the shot and that there was no lawful justification by Martinez. Soon after they exited the courtroom, we were able to get a reaction from Laddie’s family.

Bryony Fleming

Bryony Fleming, Mother of Laddie Gillett

“I feel really good that it has finally come to an end; that we got justice not only for Laddie, but for all the kids in Belize, for all the Laddie’s in Belize. I’m very grateful to everybody who assisted, the media, Justice Moore, all the police, all the investigators and to our family who have held together, who were able to keep calm through this whole very long difficult process. We really feel that justice now has been served and we are very happy.”

Lucy Fleming

Lucy Fleming, Grandmother of Laddie Gillett

“The judge did a wonderful job on outlining everything so clearly for us, taking her time. She really dotted all her I’s, crossed her T’s and she made it very clear to us that she looked at everything that everyone said to come up with her conclusion, which of course, we were very delighted to hear.”

Attorney Oscar Selgado, who represented Kareem Martinez, was not satisfied with the outcome of the case.

Oscar Selgado

Oscar Selgado, Attorney for Kareem Martinez

“With all respect to the court and the learned judge, I am of the opinion and of the view that the judge did not appreciate the evidence and did not give the evidence the enough weight. I am saying this because the police department started off this entire case by doing a very poor investigation simply because two officers, Claude Augustine and Michael Miranda went out there and said I did not have a firearm or I did not fire a firearm, the police swallowed that line hook and sinker. They did not send any of the firearms taken by Miranda or Claude Augustine for ballistic examination. And a court properly directed, a jury properly directed – in this case a judge sitting as a jury – can only dispel doubt if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the crown’s residence is real. And in this case only one gun was sent to the ballistic examiner for analysis simply because Kareem Martinez was honest and said I fired my firearm. The police said, okay good, he fired his firearm, he is the shooter, he is the person that killed Laddie Gillett.”

During the trial, seventeen witnesses were called upon by the prosecution. The judge felt that Thomas Palacio, who was with Laddie on the tragic night, was thorough in his recollection of the incident; she does believe that Thomas was threatened, physically assaulted and detained by police without reason. After combining evidence from the scene, experts and locus, she had no doubt that it was Martinez who fired the shot.  Attorney-at-law Dickie Bradley says that the verdict was expected as the evidence was clear from the outset.

Dickie Bradley

Dickie Bradley, Attorney-at-law

“Sergeant Holly Vasquez was extremely helpful, as those of you who attended the trial; his testimony was plain, straightforward and completely believable. But also he brought to court the police manual which lays out in writing that the police cannot continue to act this kind of way and yet it keeps on happening. The trial judge had said that police officers who came to testify to her court, that some of them are dishonest, trying to mislead and deceive the court. But in the end the evidence was so strong that the suggestion that a bullet can go up in the air, come backward and then go horizontal is contrary to common sense and contrary to the testimony of the ballistics expert that came to court twice to clarify any concerns. This bullet went through Laddie Gillett from a horizontal angle and all the evidence is in favour of the verdict.”

Kareem Martinez

Martinez was taken into custody and sentencing has been deferred to a date not yet determined. Attorney Dickie Bradley confirms that the law sets out that the crime carries a custodial sentence.

Dickie Bradley

“Manslaughter is when you harm someone without legal justification and the harm causing death; that is manslaughter. And the lower level manslaughter by negligence explains itself; yo negligent and yo make somebody dead. So in this case, manslaughter is usually punishable with imprisonment and in terms of the amount of years that would normally be given, that depends on a host of factors – the character witnesses, the mitigation and several other matters. But normally taking life is looked upon as a very serious matter.”

Laddie Gillett

For Laddie’s family, the verdict is bitter sweet.  While they are getting justice, the loss is still very painful.

Bryony Fleming

“My now five-year-old son is constantly still asking for Laddie and the other day he told me momma can we go up and see if Laddie’s bones are still there because I want to see him one last time. So it’s been quite difficult, but as a family, we are extremely strong, we are getting through it. We have wonderful people, the Belizean community, the kids in this country, everybody who had stood by us from the beginning through the end – everybody in Belize has given us that strength. Laddie has already made such an amazing change in this country.”

Duane Moody for News Five.