A woman who killed her husband after enduring years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, has been released from prison in Belize.
In July 2010, Lavern Longsworth, threw kerosene and a candle over her husband, David White, at their home in Belize City. Longsworth says she feared attack from her abusive husband, who was high on drugs at the time. White died from his burns in hospital two weeks later.
Longsworth was initially convicted of White’s murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012. The Death Penalty Project became involved in the case after being approached by local lawyers Godfrey Smith and Leslie Mendez, who requested assistance in challenging Longsworth’s conviction and sentence before the Court of Appeal.
In 2014, the Court of Appeal accepted fresh evidence from British psychiatrist Dr Gillian Mezey that Longsworth suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome at the time of the offence and so could not be held completely responsible for her actions.
Her life sentence for murder was overturned and replaced with eight years’ imprisonment for manslaughter. Longsworth has now been released, after being granted parole.
Longsworth’s case was the first instance of a court in Belize accepting Battered Woman Syndrome as part of a defence to murder. We have since assisted in the case of Veola Pook, whose murder conviction for killing her husband was similarly quashed by the Court of Appeal in Belize as it accepted that years of domestic abuse had affected her psychological state. Pook was released in 2015.
Lavern Longsworth was featured in From Our Own Correspondent, BBC Radio 4 on 16 March 2017. Listen here (from 22:26)
Notes to Editors
The Death Penalty Project assisted local attorneys, Godfrey Smith and Leslie Mendez, the Belize legal team in this case. Amanda Clift-Matthews (In-house Counsel), was also instructed.