Handcuffing Justice: When Smart People Act Stupid by Fayemarie A Carter, MA


Handcuffed Justice

I have watched as a nation’s emotions kept building, anxiety reaching a fever pitch. Cries for justice rang loud and a demand for good police work, the utmost importance. We all held our breath as we waited for Bert Vasquez to be charged, fearing that he would walk away “as usual” prompting protest marches sending a clear message of “No! Not this time!” And the police came through. He was charged.

But that wasn’t the end, rather it is the beginning. Just like the public feared he wouldn’t even be charged, now it fears he won’t be convicted. But instead of putting pressure on the police by standing together and making the effort to ensure that he is convicted, instead of helping the police and participating in the process of justice, we have people allowing their fear and lack of faith  to derail justice in a most egregious way. Having convinced themselves that because of his family name and influence he will not be convicted, they are calling for vigilantism. One of these people is my own partner, Aria Lightfoot. Yes, Aria. I am calling you out. So sue me.

Take a look at her Facebook status posted a few days ago:

“All you people of waiting for civility and the justice system to condemn this monster among us, question: how do you convict a well connected criminal in a society that doesn’t prosecute well connected criminals? Do we wait for the system to become fair as our children continue to fall victim? Do we wait until personally affected to become angry? All you proponents of fair play how do you get rid of a unprosecutable monster from your midst?”

At first, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, so I simply asked: “What are you inciting here?” She responded with a pretty mild answer saying she was just looking for solutions but as the conversation became more involved and other people put their two cents in, it became clear what was being said. We should kill Bert Vasquez and not bother with the process of justice, after all it is a “joke” as one person said. So I sarcastically said:  “Well let’s just kill him and get it over with! Goddammit! Screw the justice system. Let’s just be as evil as he is! Who needs rules?” Unfortunately, some people thought I was serious and concurred. No biggie. Next time, I’ll be more clear and put *sarcasm next to a statement intended as such.

Further down Aria makes her point very clear, much to my concern and disappointment: ” I guess people don’t realize that he was in the “allegedly” in process of violently sexually violating another child when he was caught. Do I need a jury to assure me he is guilty. Probably not! And victims are really afraid to come forward in this case because of who he is. So I ask all the proponents of fair play. Give me a solution Please because I feel this monster will walk and he will be one of several that continue to plague our country until the justice system catches up or people take matters in their own hands. What does a society do to protect itself?” Having a jury convict a person accused of anything is NOT for the assurance of his guilt but rather an exercise in justice, you know, that process we need to make sure INNOCENT people don’t go to jail?

I get it. You don’t believe that it will happen. It hasn’t many times. And many murderers and rapists walked free of consequences because of their status in society; bribes paid to key players; intimidation of witnesses; lost evidence because of incompetence and gross mishandling. I GET IT! As other people challenged Aria  to clarify her position, she kept saying she was only asking for a solution but when given them, she was adamant that families of victims couldn’t wait for the system to change and asked basically what are we to do in the meantime? She  suggested that these “monsters” will walk and plague us if we don’t take matters into our own hands. What does that mean Aria? Kill everybody we “know” is guilty? Remember the poor taxi guy everybody “knew” was the murderer? HE WAS INNOCENT. What would have happened if society had decided to “take matters into their own hands”? How would you have felt if society had killed this man and come to find out it was someone else? How is that a “solution”?

Let’s make something clear hear. Your statement on Facebook was insulting and condescending. Just because everyone isn’t out there screaming about justice or waving a noose around, doesn’t mean they are not as passionate as you, or as concerned or as “affected”. We just choose to do it in a different way and there is no reason we as a society can’t do both. Protests serve a purpose. It is a time to vent. It is a time to feel connected with others. It is a time to bring attention to an issue of great concern. BUT it is merely the beginning of anything. Protests in and of themselves do little to change anything. They can prompt change but the change will be brought about people who take the time to write proposals, present them and have others vote them into policy, law etc. So, killing Bert Vasquez takes care of one person and “a” situation for just a brief moment. The system will still be broken and others will then continue to “get away”. You will basically have NOT affected change and you most certainly will NOT have come up with a solution. Rather, what about the other issues you have now created? Liiiiiiiiike: WHAT ARE WE  TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? Where the hell are your beliefs in god now? What kind of god is he/she who allows YOU to kill but not others? Have you thought of what kind of reputation this will give to Belize? How does that kind of behaviour influence investors? TOURISTS??? And lastly, since we seem to have forgotten her: what the hell does this do for Jasmine’s memory? She was a Girl Scout. She worked with her father in her community. Everyone who knew her, liked her. DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THIS IS WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE WANTED? I can emphatically tell you “No!” She was about helping people, not turning them into hateful, demonic beasts seeking vengeance in her name.

So you asked for solutions. You are not going to like the answer but tough. You will help undo the damage by advocating for new legislation and abolishment of defunct, unjust old ones. You will inspire others to seek education in areas critical to justice system. You will demand that proper funding is allocated to fighting crime so that we will get better equipment and facilities aimed at proper gathering and storing of evidence. You will show your support for the hard working officers who put their lives on the line by participating in  fund raising efforts and cooperating wherever needed. That means calling the police when a crime is committed, appearing in court when you are called as a witness and teaching yourself and your kids the law and ABIDING THOSE LAWS. You will demand that investigations are made into allegations of misconduct, police brutality and corruption. You will exercise patience and serve as an example of calm, well thought out convictions. You will be a symbol of hope in yourself and Belizeans, that we know the right thing to do and that we will do the right thing. And you will start by reining in your rhetoric and realizing that you have to stop being irresponsible with your words. You need to realize your power. When you do, maybe you can start being the change you keep demanding everyone else makes.

*FYI: “Incitement” comes under “Effecting a Public Mischief” which comes under ‘Perverting the Course of Justice” which comes under “OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE” punishable by up to life imprisonment…. yeah…I would say getting people to murder Bert Vasquez falls right under all that………

Made in Belize by: Aria Lightfoot


Bert Vasquez aka Haylock suspected murderer of Jasmine Lowe

On June 20, 2012, the situation in Cayo reached a fever pitch point as a weary society felt powerless by ineffective laws and tormented by prevalent crime. Hundreds displayed their discontentment with Jasmine’s death by demanding vigilante justice. The crowd chanted, made speeches, cheered, jeered and made rope nooses. Their actions made authorities nervous and the riot police was called in the event of pandemonium.  Facebook lit up as people posted pictures and repeated rumors of notorious stories of this allegedly cold and callous individual.  Many are not feeling confident that the system will be able to prosecute this “monster” as people classify him as a well- connected criminal that has been operating mostly undeterred for many years.   One rumor said the police have always suspected he was Jack because of compromising situations with children and his repeated violent arrests. However, due to feeling indimitated by family connections, further investigation and prosecution became impossible.

So who do we blame for this alleged monster who has fed off the innocence of our children for so many years?  Let’s start with the family, because growth begins at home.  The family has tolerated, defended, enabled and excused the behavior of

 

this individual for years. Did they know what he was capable of? If they did, they are as culpable as the monster they raised.

Why would I blame the family you would ask? We can start by examining the first public record of his violent behavior.   We do not know at what point he started to exhibit wanton and reckless violent behavior but the first time he made the news was in May 2008 after an altercation with a taxi driver where Vasquez pulled a gun on him due to road rage. According to News 7 story http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11081  the victim states “This guy had all intentions. Why he didn’t use the gun, I don’t know but he went wherever he went and he got his mother and his mother gave him a gun to come after me and she accompanied him.”  And like a “good” mother Debbie Vasquez stands and defends her son’s actions as justified. According to an interview with Debbie Vasquez she stated: “I did have my licensed gun on me and at no time did my son touch my gun or I touched my gun.”   (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11082).  Think about this. Who would have more reasons to lie in this incident? And if Vasquez never held the gun, how would the victim even know a gun existed if it was never showed to him?  So we have an enabling mother who excuses away her son’s bad deeds instead of teaching him to be a social human being who respects rules. There was of course no follow up story on this incident, and we do not know what the outcome was of this case.

Second on the blame list is our courts. Our courts have also tolerated his bad behavior by not recognizing his repeat offences were growing more violent and by repeatedly offering him bail,  especially after offending while on bail for the first offence.    In February 2011, Vasquez was arrested for allegedly imprisoning a young woman and holding her at knife point while sexually assaulting her. (See: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/48840  or http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=18942&frmsrch=1). At that time the prosecutor submitted he was convicted of a similar offence and bail was denied. Anyway, at some point he received bail so that in three short months later, May 2011, (see http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=19714&frmsrch=1 or http://amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=11505 ) Vasquez was out of jail again so he could allegedly assault a new 16 year old victim. This victim claimed Vasquez pistol whipped her and attempted to kill her but the gun misfired. I am surprised he was not charged for attempted murder.  However, the police did add additional charges to the initial charge and then there was nothing more from the media regarding Bert Vasquez.  We do not get an update from the media as to what happened to him in the legal system but we do know he was once again released on bail.

Jasmine Lowe, who went missing and  found dead two days later, allegedly crossed path with Vasquez. Vasquez was allegedly caught with another minor and allegedly engaged in another violent sexual assault for which charges may be pending. Jasmine’s ring was said to be found on his possession which police feels ties him to the Jasmine’s case. (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=22742&frmsrch=1). Yesterday Vasquez was formally charged for the murder of Jasmine and police claims there may be about 11 other girls that have come forward to make claims that Vasquez attempted to solicit them in some way. Charges may are also be pending on those claims.  If Vasquez committed all these acts (whether or not we can prove him guilty), he is one mentally disturbed individual and could be the very “Jack” who plagued Belize society for over a decade.

The media did a very poor job following up on this alleged predator, knowing children were falling victims to an unknown predator. The media must develop a sense of social purpose outside sensationalism. They need to assign writers to stories and task themselves to follow a story to the end. Maybe if the media had followed up on Bert Vasquez and asked the relevant questions,  the public would have been more familiar with his face and wary of his presence.

According to Asa DeMatteo a clinical psychologist who has testified in similar matters in the US, he stated after a review of the news stories regarding Bert Vasquez:  “I have done a few forensic evaluations of these characters for the courts, and Vasquez follows a typical pattern: compulsion to commit these crimes in ritualistic sexual acts, with increasing frequency usually ending in a frenzy of killings that end up giving them away. They are deeply disturbed pathological narcissists on the edge of psychotic. There is nothing to do with them but remove them from society.”

So who else is left in the blame game? What about his friends? I skimmed Bert Vasquez’s friends’ list on Facebook. He is friends with Patrick Jones (probably to keep updated with this case and revel in his work). He is also friends with several politicians and prominent society members who undoubtedly interacted with him and may even have been privy to his violent tendencies.  The friends of Vasquez, who knew his sordid history, saw no need to develop a social conscience over this individual. BTW, is his mother the same Debbie Vasquez who ran on PUP city council ticket in 2003? Is his uncle the prominent news man Ramon?  Is his father the well-known custom officer Haylock?  I could not verify but I bring it up to signal something that is also pervasive and corruptive in our society. The law is neither blind nor balanced in Belize!

For too long, these well connected spoiled brats have been making a mockery out of our legal system, with the help of the police, attorneys, magistrates and family members.  I have personally witnessed brat after brat get off for their misdeeds because of their family connections and with the help of politicians and and some prominent bar members. On the other end of the spectrum, the court system throws the book at the “nobody” petty offender or scapegoats them into a stiff penalty. When I left prosecution in Belize I was disgusted with the level of corruption I personally witnessed. There was no accountability in the system.  The failure of the “justice” system, until it is remedied, will contribute to our spiraling crime rate and chaotic society.

We definitely need to blame the Bar Association of Belize. There are way too many attorneys in both parties to have such an archaic criminal legal system (both PUP and UDP are led by prominent attorneys). The Bar Association in Belize is inept.  We need to demand more from our Bar Association. Tax payers have spent millions educating most of them into a cushy lifestyle.  How many today are financially benefitting from technicalities in the criminal legal system? How many rushes to defend notorious criminals and use the weaknesses and loopholes to give criminals a free reign in society? How many have you heard trying to change the system? Not even the political attorneys have attempted to effectively tackle this issue and they claim to have our best interest at heart.  One attorney admittedly didn’t even pay taxes last year and claims it is a protest on how his taxes are spent. Oh the irony!  Can the average tax payer protest against our wasted taxes and demand back their educational fees? Thanks to the generosity of tax payers, they owe no one anything (or so they think).  They mock our system, they adhere to no social responsibility and they are not held accountable.

Finally, where do we leave ourselves as individuals?  We in the society pretend there is no blatant inequality in Belize system. We turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of  the vulnerable while we defend and befriend individuals because of who they are related to or which political party they are affiliated with. We do not give a damn of how corrupted or evil some people we associatewith truly are. And let me not forget those people fighting for the defendant’s rights without any thought of weighing the victims’ rights. The ones among us that tell us things like creating a sexual offenders website would infringe on the reputation of the defendant, failing to see that these predators enjoy a lax criminal environment while they tear our children’s innocence to shreds.   Ultimately many more monsters exist and will emerge in this broken criminal friendly system.

Children are the most vulnerable in our society because they are dependent on us; they are defenseless; their voices are small; we tell them to shut up; we regret them; we do not listen to their concerns, and they cannot vote. So if you think a politician will solve this crisis, think again. The will of the politician must come from the people. Our children are becoming casualties of a corrupted system.  Bert Vasquez is a product of all of us in Belize. We all contributed to this alleged “monster”.  We had to power to stop him from the first offense. His mother had many opportunities to show him corrective behavior but instead defended his violent tendencies. We allowed this monster to grow among us and possibly kill many innocent lives.  Shame on us all! Let’s start rebuilding Belize and demanding the needed reforms for the sake of our children!

Suspect Charged With Jasmine Lowe’s Murder 06-20-12


Taken from Love FM’s Facebook Page:

 

 

 

Burt Vasquez Haylock will be arraigned on several other charges tomorrow following 11 separate reports made against him by young girls who allege that Vasquez had attempted to pick them up and offered them money in the Cayo District. Sr. Supt. Chester Williams says they are moving carefully as they do not want to move haphazardly as that can jeopardize the court process……Compol Henderson is hesitant to get into the details of the evidence so as not to jeopardize the investigation. Williams says he is positive that they have the person they are looking for regarding Jasmine Lowe’s murder. It is anticipated that more young girls will be coming in to make complaints against Burt Haylock…..Williams says that he is thankful to members of the community who assisted and mobilized with the Police as their cooperation has led them to where they are today with this investigation. It is to be noted that when Burt was apprehended he was in the company of a minor….