maandag 21 juni 2010

Joran Van der Sloot: Fact vs. Fiction and False Reports

Joran Van der Sloot will appear before a judge today in Lima. (Court's press release here, Spanish version here.) The hearing will be at Miguel Castro Castro prison. Again, the media reports are all over the place as to what charges the prosecutor has asked the Judge to consider and who his lawyer will be.

First off, contrary to some news reports Sunday (which appear to be based on this one from Lima, translation here), New York attorney Joe Tacopina is not going to Peru (at least not at this time) but he has been consulting with Joran's mother and assisting her in securing a top attorney in Peru. How do I know? He's a good friend of mine and he just told me.

Second, as I understand them, the charges being contemplated are murder (with special circumstances) and simple theft (not aggravated robbery.) The best source is the Court's press release announcing the charges on June 11, 2010. Translation, followed by Spanish: [More...]

A judge of the Permanent Duty Criminal Court of Lima, Dr. Juan Buendia Valenzuela opened instruction with an arrest warrant against Joran Andreas Petrus van der Sloot as the alleged perpetrator of the crimes of homicide qualified and against property, in the form of simple theft, to the detriment of Stephany Ramirez Flores.

El magistrado del Juzgado Penal de Turno Permanente de la Corte de Lima, doctor Juan Buendía Valenzuela, abrió instrucción con mandato de detención contra Joran Andreas Petrus Van der Sloot como presunto autor de los delitos de homicidio calificado y contra el patrimonio, en la modalidad de hurto simple, en agravio de Stephany Flores Ramírez.

The Peru Penal Code is here. You can read the statutes for yourself.

Simple Theft (Hurto Simple):

Article 185 .- Simple Theft, Article amended by paragraph 1 of Article 29 of Legislative Decree No. 1084, issued on June 28, 2008, which reads as follows:

"Whoever, for profit, unlawfully seized movable property, in whole or in part outside, removing it from the place where found, shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than one nor more than three years. They are comparable to movable electric power, gas, water and energy or any other item that has economic value as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and to fishery resources allocation mechanism of maximum catch per boat. "

Artículo 185.- Hurto Simple (Artículo modificado por el numeral 1 del Artículo 29 del Decreto Legislativo Nº 1084, publicado el 28 junio 2008, cuyo texto es el siguiente:)

“El que, para obtener provecho, se apodera ilegítimamente de un bien mueble, total o parcialmente ajeno, sustrayéndolo del lugar donde se encuentra, será reprimido con pena privativa de libertad no menor de uno ni mayor de tres años. Se equiparan a bien mueble la energía eléctrica, el gas, el agua y cualquier otra energía o elemento que tenga valor económico, así como el espectro electromagnético y también los recursos pesqueros objeto de un mecanismo de asignación de Límites Máximos de Captura por Embarcación.”

The murder charge: From the court's press release:

According to the prosecutor's report, the same that was presented about 04:00 pm today, Van der Sloot would have killed Flores Ramirez with the aggravation of having acted with great ferocity and cruelty, as provided in Article 108 of the Penal Code Sections 1 and 3, which defines the crime of murder.

Here's Article 108, with sections 1 and 3:

Article 108 .- Murder- Murder - Article amended by Article 1 of Law No. 28,878, published on August 17, 2006, which reads as follows:

Shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than fifteen years to kill another meet any of the following circumstances:

1. For ferocity, for profit or pleasure;
2. To facilitate or conceal another crime;
3. With great cruelty or premeditation;
4. For fire, explosion, poison or any other medium capable of endangering the life or health of others;
5. If the victim is a member of the National Police of Peru or of the Armed Forces, Head of the Judiciary or the Public Ministry, in carrying out their duties. "

“Artículo 108.- Homicidio Calificado - Asesinato (*) Artículo modificado por el Artículo 1 de la Ley N° 28878, publicada el 17 agosto 2006, cuyo texto es el siguiente:

Será reprimido con pena privativa de libertad no menor de quince años el que mate a otro concurriendo cualquiera de las circunstancias siguientes:

1. Por ferocidad, por lucro o por placer;
2. Para facilitar u ocultar otro delito;
3. Con gran crueldad o alevosía;
4. Por fuego, explosión, veneno o por cualquier otro medio capaz de poner en peligro la vida o salud de otras personas;
5. Si la víctima es miembro de la Policía Nacional del Perú o de las Fuerzas Armadas, Magistrado del Poder Judicial o del Ministerio Público, en el cumplimiento de sus funciones."

Undoubtedly, Joran would have preferred to be charged with either of the following alternatives:

Article 109 .- homicide violent emotion

He who kills another under the influence of violent emotion that circumstances make it excusable, shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than three nor more than five years.

Artículo 109.- Homicidio por emoción violenta

El que mata a otro bajo el imperio de una emoción violenta que las circunstancias hacen excusable, será reprimido con pena privativa de libertad, no menor de tres ni mayor de cinco años.

Or, Simple Murder under Article 106:

Article 106 .- Simple Murder

He who kills another shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six nor more than twenty years.

Artículo 106.- Homicidio Simple

El que mata a otro será reprimido con pena privativa de libertad no menor de seis ni mayor de veinte años.

(Bolded emphasis by me.) My understanding is that the hearing the judge is conducting tomorrow is similar to our version of a preliminary hearing -- it's a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to order the defendant to stand trial on the charges submitted. I assume(but do not know for sure) that the judge, after considering the charges as submitted, could determine that he should stand trial on lesser charges. And again, if he's ordered to stand trial, the trial is before a three judge panel, not a jury.

And contrary to what the "prison expert" who appeared on CBS predicting Joran would be killed in Castro Castro, said this weekend, Peru does indeed have the presumption of innocence. It's right in their Constitution.

Chapter I Fundamental Rights of the Individual

Article 2 Every individual has the right:

...24. to personal freedom and security.


...e) Every person is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

In Spanish:

Artículo 2.- Derechos fundamentales de la persona
Toda persona tiene derecho:
24. A la libertad y a la seguridad personales. En consecuencia:
... e). Toda persona es considerada inocente mientras no se haya declarado judicialmente su responsabilidad.

Next expert, please.

Joran's court appearance is at 10:00 a.m. (The time in Peru is the same as CST.) According to Peru 21 (which contained the misinformation about Joe Tacopina), his current lawyer Maximo Altez Navarro, says Joran won't be making a statement because he wants a re-do of the first interrogation (in which he confessed) and the habeas action he filed last week challenging the confession hasn't been ruled upon yet.

And yes, Peru's Constitution provides for habeas corpus. It also, like Mexico and other Latin American countries, provides for Amparo (another form of constitutional relief, that's different than habeas.)

Offical news updates on the hearing will come from the Court's press office.


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