Justice In Belize
Accident, Court, Jail, Bail, Delay
Who, really, is the victim?
Imagine yourself riding in your car down the Northern Highway in Belize. It is a perfect day. You are contemplating a visit to your family and are in fact on your way to the Belize City to arrange the required visa. Your spouse is driving. You are having a quiet conversation when suddenly a young man runs across the highway directly in front of your car. There is nothing the driver can do and the young man is stuck and killed.
This is precisely what happened to Iliana Stout on the morning of November 5, 2009 when the car in which she was riding, driven by her 80 year old husband Gordon, struck and killed Mr. Dorian Herrera.
“Everything changed so quickly,” laments Iliana Stout, “We were so happy to be back in Belize, to see all our good friends. I was looking forward to visiting my Mother in Cuba. That is why we were driving to Belize City. I am a Mexican Citizen so I need a visa to visit Cuba. We were going to stop at the Cuban embassy then do some shopping in the City. I can’t remember too many times in my life when I was as relaxed and happy as I was that morning. Then bang, everything changed.
“I saw the truck parked on the other side of the road, there were a couple of men standing by it. There weren’t any caution signs or anything that looked unusual. Then this man ran from behind the truck, across the other lane directly in front of us. There was nothing Gordon could do, there was no way to miss the man, there was no time to react, it was like a nightmare.”
But for Gordon and Iliana Stout, the nightmare was only beginning.
Several hours were spent at the scene, waiting for the police to arrive, waiting for an ambulance, waiting for the investigators to dissect the scene. Once all the on-scene investigation was complete, Gordon and Iliana were driven, in their car, to the police station. The car was placed in the impound yard, unprotected from the elements.
At the station, much of the questioning was centered on Gordon Stout’s age. The local Media also placed a lot of emphasis on this subject. What you need to know is that Gordon Stout is not your average octogenarian. He is an FAA licensed commercial pilot. He flies acrobatic aircraft. He passed a rigorous FAA Commercial Pilot’s flight physical 3 months prior to this incident. FAA approved Flight Physicians take their responsibility very seriously. A flight physical is detailed and thorough. When a pilot reaches 60, the Flight Physicians are looking for any plausible reason to ground the pilot. Gordon Stout is not a man whose reflexes or judgment are questionable. Had there been the slightest hint of impairment, he would have been promptly and permanently grounded by the Flight Physician. As emphasis, Gordon had engaged in several hours of acrobatic flying just prior to his return to Belize in late October.
After giving their statements, they were taken to the magistrate’s court in Belize City where Gordon was charged with one count of Manslaughter by Negligence; one count of Causing Death by Careless Conduct and one count of Driving Without Due Care and Attention. He was offered bail at $5000, which he offered to pay on the spot. Unfortunately, if you are not a citizen of Belize, you must also have a Belizean guarantee you will not just leave the country. Not knowing anyone in Belize City to provide the needed guarantee, Gordon had the privilege of spending the night in the Ladyville lockup. Iliana had to take a taxi, alone, after dark, into Belize City to find a hotel for the night. She called some friends in Consejo and they agreed to drive to down the next morning, sign Gordon out of jail and bring them home. Gordon was ordered to return to court on December 15th.
In the mean time, the Stout’s have been trying to get a copy of the police report. It is not available. They are trying to get their car released from impound so it can be repaired. They have done everything the police requested yet the Public Prosecutor, for unknown reasons, will not release the car.
So it is now December 15th. The Stouts dutifully drove to Belize City as ordered for Gordon’s next court appearance. His lawyer, however, didn’t bother to show up. The matter was adjourned until 11 Feb. 2010. There is still no police report available, and the government still will not release the car. Justice Delayed.
We will be updating this saga as events dictate.
Update: The February 11th appearance, again without the lawyer present, resulted in an additional delay. Postponed until April 14th. The Stout's car still has not been released and will probably be worthless by the time this matter is settled.
Gordon Stout died on March 25th, 2013 with this case still pending. Almost 3 1/2 years with this cloud over his head. What a complete travesty.