Lawyer seeks negotiation over death of La Reforma guard

Juan Diego Castro is flanked by Harlen Jiménez Mora, the widow, and María Fallas Mora, the mother.

The widow and mother of a prison guard killed in a breakout attempt May 11 have enlisted the services of a top criminal lawyer.

The lawyer, Juan Diego Castro, told a press conference Monday that the goal is an alternative resolution of a damage case that the women may bring against the central government.

The dead guard, Francis Morales Fallas, was a hostage being used as a shield by prisoners when he was hit by a bullet fired by law officers. The bullet appears to have come from the weapon of a member of the Judicial Investigating Organization tactical squad. Several groups of law officers had headed off the prisoners and their hostages as they tried to make their way to the facility’s arsenal. Two prisoners died in the firefight, and one was injured.

Castro was accompanied at the press conference by Harlen Jiménez Mora, the widow, and María Fallas Mora, the mother. Ms. Jiménez brought her infant.

The lawyer filed a formal request for conciliation Monday with the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, which runs the prisons. They are seeking approval to enter into a conciliation negotiation from Hernando Paris, the minister.
Paris appears to have his hands full as each day brings a new revelation about deficiencies at the prison, La Reforma in San Rafael de Alajuela. A major investigation is underway because one of the ringleaders of the prison break appears to have been beaten with fatal results.

The maximum security staff of 10 guards has been suspended for investigation.

In addition, the investigation seeks to find out how the prisoners got keys and were able to use a cell telephone. The situation reflects on President Laura Chinchilla because she once held the justice ministry post.

The murdered inmate was Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez. Some kind of damage claim is likely to come from his family, too.

Castro said that he was urging conciliation to prevent revictimization of the family. He noted that the method had been used to compensate families of victims who died in the Hospital Calderón Guardia fire July 12, 2005, and the families of those killed when a Fuerza Pública officer went on a shooting spree at the Embassy of Chile July 27, 2004.

Paris has 10 days to accept or reject the request, according to the law, Castro said. No amount was discussed, The lawyer said that experts would make a mathematical estimate.

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