The nation’s public defender agency is crying foul because the Inspección Judicial just took the decision to begin a disciplinary process against the first trial tribunal whose members acquitted suspects in the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora.
The statement in the name of the Defensa Pública noted that the first trial was more than a year ago and a retrial is taking place now in the Tribunal de Juicio de Limón.
The defense agency said that the action would affect the principles of objectivity, independency and impartiality by the current tribunal. It noted that these principles are stated in the Costa Rican Constitution and also referenced by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. That court said that judges should not be subjected to punishment for their decisions, and the only valid route would be an appeals process.
Many in Costa Rica were unhappy with the first trial court decision, although prosecutors handling the case appeared to have made errors.
Unlike other countries, trial verdicts are not final, and either the
prosecution or the defendants can appeal. So the seven suspects are back in court.
Prosecutors were unhappy, too, because the three-judge panel rejected a video testimony from one of the women who was with Mora when he was abducted May 31, 2013, near Playa Moín. He was there with four female volunteers to protect turtle nests from egg poachers.
The case created an international scandal.
Mora and volunteers were confronted by men who took him away and held the volunteers hostage for a time in a nearby dwelling.
The first trial judges said that both the prosecution and investigators lacked rigor in handling evidence including breaks in the chain of custody. Problems also existed in the presentation of the case of the three U.S. volunteers and a Spanish woman who were held hostage while Mora was dragged to his death at the nearby beach.
The judges cited errors in the handling of wiretap results including a lack of attributing ownership of cell phones.