And, while that was the huge decision coming out of the Court of Appeal in the morning, there was another massive ruling which was handed down in the afternoon session. The court ruled that a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole can no longer be given to convicted persons. That means that defendants who have been convicted of murder will now be given a certain number of years in jail, and if they eligible, they will be given parole after serving part of that sentence.
This came out of Gregory August's appeal. In November 2012, he was convicted of the 2009 killing of 73 year-old Alvin Robinson. A jury found him guilty of stabbing the elderly disabled man 9 times in the face and neck. He had been sentenced to life in prison - but the landmark judgment now quashes that life sentence. More importantly, it sets a major precedent, scrapping automatic life sentences for murder convictions. After the hearing, we spoke with his attorney, Eamon Courtenay, about the significance of the decision:
"In this particular case Gregory August who is our client had been confined of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility if parole. That was the sentenced to be imposed on him and the trial judge had no discretion. We challenged that on the basis that it was our submission that it was unconstitutional because it took away from the judge the ability to sentence a person based on the facts."
"The court of appeal his afternoon handed down its decision and upheld our submission and found that the particular section of the law is unconstitutional and it vacated the sentence that was impose on him of life imprisonment. In placed thereof they have imposed a sentence of 30 years less the time that he has already served."
"It's a tremendous victory for Mr. August. He is very happy about the results and it of of course has implications for everyone who has been sentenced under that provision, because that provision is unconstitutional. I suspect that there will have to be a review of all those persons who are in prison with that sentence imposed on them."
Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Therefore life in imprisonment for murder is no longer a sentence applicable."
"Life imprisonment for murder without the possibility of parole is not possible. It also means that the state is probably have to amend the law to make it constitutional, so that the trial judge can a discretion as to what decision or what sentence he wants to imposed."
Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Sir, your client, if I understand, is his case being further dealt with at the CCJ?"
"Right. You will recall that over a year ago, the CCJ gave permission for his to appeal. So the appeal is at the CCJ and either the government or ourselves can apply to the CCJ to lift the stay based on its decision. We have to study this decision and decide whether it is to go to the CCJ."
"It seems to us that the evidence was extremely weak. We also believe that a good character directions should have been given and I haven't read the judgement yet, but I think that's another aspect of the case that we are going to review with a view to determining whether it not we are going to appeal."
"I know Mr. August is very anxious that we study the judgement very carefully to see whether we will proceed to the CCJ. But as I say it's a very important decision and a lot has been taken off his shoulders, because it has moved from life imprisonment to 30 years."
Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Is he contemplating challenging the substantive verdict of guilty?"
"Yes. Absolutely and that's what he would want to go to the CCJ on."
We have checked at the Belize Central Prison, and their stats say that there are currently 42 persons currently serving life sentences there. As you heard, attorney Eamon Courtenay said that the cases for all those persons will now be up for review to see what new sentences they should be given.
As you heard in the interview, this isn't the end for August who maintains his innocence. He will now take the criminal appeal of the guilty verdict to the Caribbean Court of Justice, something convicted persons hadn't attempted before due to the enormous legal costs.