Bismillah The Case of Viola Pook


by Derrick Estrada

The case of Viola Pook was brought to national and international attention two months ago when Minister Farrakhan, in a question and answer session after his lecture to the prison population of the Belize Central Prison asked Ms Pook why she felt the need to kill the man she was convicted for killing. Viola Pook in front of the whole world recounted a story of betrayal, violence and eventual rape of a thirteen year old child she and her common-law husband of twenty three years had raised from the time the child was eight months old. When he did that treacherous act the dam broke and she soon after set him on fire which eventually caused his death. Ms Pook’s graphic recollection of her ordeal brought many who were present to tears.

At the end of her story the Minister called her up to the stage from which he spoke and said to her that he would do what he could to help her case. He said he was willing to write to the Court of Appeals on her behalf. He went on to point out that in a truly Muslim society that any man who committed such a crime would be punished by death.

Minister Farrakhan has continued to show a keen interest in this case and has asked me to follow the case closely and advise him on what is the best way he can support Ms Pook’s case. As a result I have been in regular communication with officials at the Central Prison, as well as having a three hour visit with Ms Pook. I have also met with her attorney Mr. Simion Sampson to be briefed on the appeal process. So the Minister is abreast of the case and like all of us, awaits the outcome.

Viola Pook’s case comes up in this present June Session of the Court of Appeals. As I understand it, the scenario that Ms Pook told the world on that historic day in the Prison, regarding the real reason she killed her common-law, was never entered as evidence by her attorney. For some reason that whole part of her reasoning was left out of the defense argument. Perhaps it’s because in our laws there is no justification for intentional homicide. Instead the defense was based on debunking a statement, “da me catch an fire”, and the technicalities in the trial procedures. The jury did not buy that weak defense and as a result Ms Viola Pook ended with a life sentence.

But I think a part of the blame must also go to Ms Pook herself. How can she know that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the rape of her granddaughter, and that was what led her to kill him, yet she didn’t insist that this be a part of her defense? Maybe it’s because poor people usually leave such matters up to smart lawyers not knowing that some of these lawyers cynically reconcile their loses with the justification that, “you win some, and you lose some”.

Viola Pook’s case should have been the focus of all women’s groups including the Women’ Department whose mantra says they are about support for women who have been domestically abused. They even have an hour long TV documentary film sponsored by UNICEF that highlights domestic abuse of Belizean women which they air every week, yet when they have a live, and current case in front of them, they are disengaged.

Ms Pook has a very intriguing and engaging story of abuse that goes back more than a decade. One day she may get a chance to tell the world her whole story. Ms Pook thinks that there are many women out there who are suffering exactly what she was going through and she wants the chance to share her experience with them so that they don’t end up going to the limits she did.

But for now it’s about her case which will be heard in the Court of Appeals on June 13. Ms Pook is being represented by the esteemed human rights, Senior Consul, Simion Sampson.

As mentioned earlier, the whole scenario recounted by Ms Pook at the Central Prison two months ago will not form a part of her appeal since it did not form a part of the original trial transcript. New matters cannot be introduced at the Court of Appeals level. At this level the only thing the Court considers is what is documented in the trial. Mr. Sampson, as her attorney will present the Court with arguments related to matters of law and represent justification from the trial documents for the Court to reconsider the verdict and rule in her favor.

So we all await the decision of the Court of Appeals on the case of Viola Pook which they will hear on June 13, 2013.

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