7 men acquitted of murder of Costa Rica sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora


Unfortunately, after three months of trial marked by continuous delays and setbacks, “justicia” has not been found. In Costa Rica today, a Limón court acquitted seven men of the murder of 26-year-old sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora on the night of May 31, 2013, “citing reasonable doubt, discarded evidence and an ineffective investigation.” Here are excerpts; see full article in the link below:

Defendants surnamed Arauz, Salmón (brother of defendant Donald Salmón) and Loaiza will walk free, absolved of all crimes, while Hectór Cash, Ernesto Centeno, José Bryan Delgado and Donald Salmón will serve prison sentences for a prior rape and robbery on the same beach. All seven defendants were acquitted of the kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault and murder that took place on the night of May 31, 2013, when Mora was killed.

That night, a band of masked men captured Mora, who worked at a nearby wildlife refuge, along with four foreign volunteers from Moín Beach near Limón, on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. The group had gone to the beach to collect leatherback sea turtle eggs to rebury them safely away from the poachers that frequented Moín. As the group was returning to the sanctuary, they encountered a log blocking the road, and when Mora exited the car to remove it, he was ambushed by a group of masked men. The men took the four women to an abandoned house, while Mora was taken to the beach, beaten and dragged naked behind a car. He died of asphyxiation in the sand.

[. . .] The prosecution alleged that the seven defendants were members of a known poaching gang and murdered Mora because of his role protecting turtles on the beach. Judges cited the legal principle of in dubio pro reo, which means the court must rule in favor of defendants when reasonable doubt exists. In her explanation of the verdict, Judge Yolanda Alvaredo said the mishandling of evidence by investigators, prosecutors and preliminary courts contributed to this doubt. She also cited an incomplete investigation that was unable to determine with exactitude the identities of the perpetrators. “Lamentably the management of evidence broke the chain of proof in this case,” Alvaredo said.

That mishandling of evidence led to the exclusion of three key pieces of evidence from the prosecution’s case. These included bottles of cologne that were  lost in evidence, a recorded disc of telephone conversations that was not properly reviewed by a preliminary court judge, and cellphone tower investigations that also did not undergo judicial review. The Tico Times had reviewed much of this evidence for a previous in-depth report on the case. Read that related story, “Why Jairo died,” here.

[. . .] Rodrigo Araya, an attorney representing Mora’s family, told online news site AmeliaRueda.com that he felt “an absolute sense of impunity,” and that he would appeal the ruling, which he said was based on technicalities.

The news site also reported that a protest to denounce the trial’s outcome is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 29, in front of the court complex in downtown San José. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/01/26/not-guilty-7-men-acquitted-of-murder-of-costa-rica-sea-turtle-conservationist-jairo-mora

[Image above by the Ecologist Federation of Costa Rica, from http://revista-amauta.org/2013/09/a-tres-meses-del-asesinato-de-jairo-mora-seguimos-esperando-respuestas/ ]

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