BELMOPAN, Belize, Monday July 20, 2015 – The last man waiting to face the hangman in Belize got a reprieve when the Court of Appeal quashed his death sentence last week, saying his constitutional rights had been violated.
Glenford Baptist, 44, had spent more than 13 years on death row after being convicted of murder in November 2001. At the time of his sentencing, the death penalty was automatic for homicides, but that was declared unconstitutional and replaced with a discretionary regime a year later.
His attorney Priscilla Banner argued before the court that the length of time her client had been on death row without being executed – 13 years and eight months – amounted to inhumane treatment or punishment, and also that he should not have automatically faced the death sentence.
“Essentially, Mr. Baptist was saying to the court . . . [that] ‘both of those constitute breaches of my fundamental rights, particularly Section 7 of the Constitution’ and he asked the court . . . to quash his sentence of death,” she said.
The court agreed and has scheduled a resentencing hearing for October 8.
Baptist was one of three people sentenced to hang for the murder of another man. The other two convicts – Oscar Mendez who had his conviction quashed, and Gilroy Wade – have since died.
Although the death penalty remains on the statute books, the last execution in Belize took place in 1985.
The Death Penalty Project, a UK-based human rights organization, said it was hopeful that the court’s decision in Baptist’s case would encourage Belize to join the growing list of countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty.