Longsworth v. The Queen

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The appellant threw an accelerant on her husband, followed by a lit candle. She then immediately attempted to douse the flames in water. Her husband died and she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, the appellant attempted to introduce new evidence that she had suffered from Battered Women Syndrome (“BWS”). This evidence was not available during the appellant’s trial because there were no qualified forensic psychiatrists available in Belize. The Court of Appeal granted the appeal on the ground that (1) it was capable of belief; (2) it was relevant to the issues before the jury; (3) it would have been admissible at trial; (4) the trial attorney had been asked why no medical evidence was presented at trial; (5) the new evidence may have caused the jury to decide differently; (6) the evidence supported a defense of diminished responsibility and (7) it cast doubt as to the reasonableness of the verdict and admission of the evidence was in the interest of justice. The court considered the findings of an experienced and distinguished professional in the field of forensic psychiatry who examined the appellant, interviewed witnesses, reviewed trial documents, and found that the appellant’s history and behavior was consistent with BWS. The forensic psychiatrist concluded that the appellant had been physically, sexually, financially, and psychologically abused by her partner for nine years. This abuse, together with the appellant’s response to the abuse, was found to be consistent with BWS. The Court reduced the appellant’s sentence to eight years. This case was the first time that a court in Belize admitted new evidence in relation to BWS and PTSD in connection with a defense of diminished responsibility.



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