Burton Caliz found guilty of manslaughter by negligence in the 2004 death of Leroy Pilgrim
Friday, October 4th, 2013
The trial regarding the shooting death of 24 year Leroy Pilgrim is back in Supreme Court following a retrial. Pilgrim, a resident of the San Juan area of San Pedro Town was shot and killed in February of 2004 by Police Constable Burton Caliz following a struggle.
Caliz, who remains on interdiction, was initially charged with manslaughter in March of 2004 but his charge was upgraded to murder in 2007, where he was found guilty. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the conviction was overturned in 2008 during an appeal trial before the Belize Court of Appeal, who then ordered a retrial.
That retrial started on September 18th before Justice Troadio Gonzalez, but this time for manslaughter. The prosecutor called eight witnesses to testify including Sanjay Pilgrim, the brother of the deceased. Sanjay told the court that on the day of incident, he was on a boat in the San Juan area of San Pedro Town, when his brother Leroy arrived. He recalled that on the day of the incident, police constables Vidal Cajun and Caliz then arrived in separate golf carts. In his statement from the dockette, Sanjay recounted that both officers approached his brother and searched him and that Caliz placed a firearm on Leroy’s head. He also testified that Caliz then pushed Leroy into the water, and shot him in the back of the head.
Caliz’s Attorney, Dickie Bradley disputed Sanjay’s version and explained that he was being “set-up” adding that the firearm belonged to PC Vidal Cajun. In his defense, Caliz said that Leroy pulled him into the water and that the firearm eventually went off.
After almost four hours of deliberation, the jury comprising of seven women and two men announced their verdict and explained that Caliz was not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of manslaughter by negligence. He now awaits a sentencing hearing, which Justice Troadio Gonzalez reserved for Thursday October 10th, to give Caliz enough time to prepare a mitigation plea. Attorney Dickie Bradley has indicated to the court that they will appeal the latest verdict.
At the time Pilgrim’s death caused major uproars and protests in San Pedro Town, where it was reported that the police force had been involved in several instances of police brutality. Pilgrim was a father of 1 ½ year old at the time of his death.