Veola Pook, who killed her husband in response to years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse was granted parole and released last week.
In December 2008, Pook, 57, threw gasoline on Orlando Vasquez and set him alight in their home in Rancho Dolores Village, Belize District. Vasquez died in the hospital from his burns two days later.
Pook was initially convicted of murder in 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in March 2014, the Court of Appeal in Belize quashed her conviction and ordered a retrial. This time, Pook was re-indicted for the offence of manslaughter after the Director of Public Prosecutions considered a psychiatric evaluation of her mental state at the time of the killing. Pook pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the matter swiftly moved to a sentencing hearing.
The Court accepted the psychiatric evaluation conducted by Dr. Richard Latham, a UK forensic psychiatrist, and his findings that Pook was suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome at the time of the offence. The Court was heavily guided by the findings of the Court of Appeal in Lavern Longsworth v The Queen. In October 2015, Pook was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. Given that Pook had been in custody since her arrest in January 2009, Pook was granted parole by the Parole Board and released last week.
Iliana Swift and Leslie Mendez, Belizean attorneys-at-law, were aided by London based organisation The Death Penalty Project, which became involved after concerns that a miscarriage of justice had taken place.
Dr Richard Latham of Forensic Psychiatry Chambers was instructed pro bono to carry out an assessment of Pook and to provide an expert report for the Court.