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Mexico: Anticipation and Reactions on the Verdict of Florence Cassez

On March 21, 2012 the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, through its First Division, had the task of deciding the controversial case of Frenchwoman Florence Marie Louise Cassez Crepin, who had previously been found criminally responsible for crimes classified as felonies under Mexican law, including the illegal deprivation of freedom (kidnapping).

According to the resolution [es] and the information released on the blog México por Florence Cassez, (Mexico for Florence Cassez) [es] the Frenchwoman has been in custody of Mexican authorities since December 9, 2005, after being arrested on the outskirts of the Federal District in the company of Israel Vallarte, her one-time boyfriend, whom the court identified as a “confessed criminal”.

Cassez was convicted in both parts of the criminal proceedings, and in February 2011 she was denied “the refuge and protection of the federal courts”, upholding the sentence. At that time, the judgment caused diplomatic tensions between Mexico and France, which were addressed by Global Voices in the post which may be accessed here.

In the days leading up to the Supreme Court (SCJN for its initials in Spanish) issuing its final decision, the issue sparked anticipation and divided opinions, since the resolution proposed Cassez’ “immediate and unconditional release”, after establishing that her fundamental rights were violated and that her arrest was staged.

Some Twitter users commented on the issue, [translator's note: all Twitter accounts are in Spanish] addressing the Supreme Court and its justices, in an attempt to be heard; as in the case of Alessia Corcuera (@top_roping_ale), who said:

#NoSeOlvida que #Cassez fue detenida IN FRAGANTI y que una de sus víctimas la identificó plenamente desde el día 1 ccp @SCJN @JRCossio

Don't forget that Cassez was arrested in flagrante and that one of her victims identified her from Day 1.

Later the same user added:

… los mexicanos esperamos que la @SCJN no sea un instrumento de impunidad. Exigimos castigo a los delincuentes!!! #Cassez ccp @JRCossio

We Mexicans hope that the SCJN isn't an instrument of impunity. We demand punishment of criminals!

However, other users, like @elmaquiavelo, referred to the case noting that arbitrariness has no place in the pursuit of justice:

no se puede hacer justicia con ilegalidades y arbitrariedades

Justice cannot be served with illegalities and arbitrariness.

In that vein, user Alvaro Molina (@a_molinam) quoted a fragment of what he identified as “Law of the Land”, a foreign law, which states in part:

“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or any other wise destroyed; but by lawful judgment of his Peers” Que se acuerde la SCJN #Cassez

“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or any other wise destroyed; but by lawful judgment of his Peers”. The SCJN should agree.

User @Lamb_0f_God, meanwhile, offered an interesting question of whether a Mexican criminal in France would have any prerogatives (beyond that anticipated by the law):

¿Un SECUESTRADOR mexicano detenido en #Francia tendría las mismas CONSIDERACIONES que Florence #Cassez tiene en nuestro país? #Crimen

Would a Mexican kidnapper arrested in France get the same considerations that Florence Cassez gets in our country?

The author of Blog de la_Morsa [es] acknowledged not knowing whether Cassez is guilty or not, but offers an opinion about the issue:

Yo no sé si Florence Cassez es realmente culpable o no. Conozco cómo nos las gastamos en cuestiones legales en este país, en donde si tienes dinero, la ley se puede estirar tanto como dinero puedas pagar. Aquí las leyes muchas veces se manejan y manipulan en términos de cuánto dinero pueden aportar los incriminados. Es así de lamentable el asunto.

Por otra parte, están los derechos de las víctimas, que han sido violentados. En consecuencia, la Suprema Corte está en un dilema lógico: si libera a Cassez, entonces hará mal. Si no lo hace, hará igualmente mal.

En mi opinión, mañana la Suprema Corte dirá que Cassez debe ser liberada. Eso ayudará probablemente a Sarkozy en su campaña de reelección, pero además, dejará al descubierto una vez más cómo se hacen los procesos legales en México. Ya tuvimos una película/documental, “presunto Culpable”, en donde se puede ver la manera sui generis, para decirlo amablemente, de hacer justicia en nuestro México.

I don't know if Florence Cassez is really guilty or not. I know how it goes with legal issues in this country, where if you have money, the law can be stretched as far as you can afford it. Here the laws are often handled and manipulated in terms of how much money the accused has to spend. It's that bad.On the other hand are the rights of victims who have been violated. Accordingly, the Supreme Court is in a logical dilemma: if it frees Cassez, it will be wrong. If not, it will be equally wrong.

In my opinion, tomorrow the Supreme Court will say that Cassez should be released. That will probably help Sarkozy in his reelection campaign, but also will reveal once again how the legal process works in Mexico. We already had a movie/documentary “Presumed Guilty”, where you can see the sui generis (unique) manner, to put it nicely, justice is served in our Mexico.

In this case Article 19 [es] denounced the alleged intimidation of information professionals because of their coverage of the Cassez case:

En ese sentido, ARTICLE 19 desea manifestar su preocupación por la intimidación de que han sido objeto periodistas de medios nacionales e internacionales que han dado cobertura al tema en los últimos días. Hasta el momento se tiene conocimiento de tres casos de periodistas que han sido víctimas de acoso, seguimientos,  intervención  de comunicaciones y posible daño a su propiedad que pudo haber afectado su integridad física.

In this regard, ARTICLE 19 wishes to express its concern about the intimidation to which both local and international journalists have been subjected who have covered this issue the past few days. As of this moment, there are three known cases of journalists who have been victims of harassment, surveillance, interception of communications, and possible damage to equipment that could have affected their physical integrity.

The verdict

At about 2:15 p.m., on March 21, 2012, it was learned that per the justices’ votes, Cassez will not be granted “immediate and unconditional release”, at least not yet. The journalist Joaquín López-Dóriga (@lopezdoriga1) reported the following:

Por 3 votos a 2, la 1a Sala de la Corte, rechaza libertad de Florence Cassez.

By a vote of 3 to 2, the Court rejected the release of Florence Cassez.

The matter will be forwarded to another justice for the preparation of the opinion of the court. The jurist Miguel Carbonell (@MiguelCarbonell) clarified the effect of the vote:

Todo sigue igual en #casoCassez Empieza de nuevo el asunto ante la Suprema Corte. El proyecto lo hará un Ministro distinto a Zaldívar.

Nothing has changed with the #casoCassez. The issue will start over before the Supreme Court. The opinion will be rendered by a justice other than Zaldivar.

Not releasing the Frenchwoman led to some Twitter users questioning the Supreme Court. Such is the case with Alice López Franco (@Alice_NLF):

La SCJN no estuvo a la altura.

The Supreme Court was not up to par.

Cesar Cansino (@cesarcansino) noted:

HOY MÉXICO ESTÁ DE LUTO. LA SUPREMA CORTE TERMINÓ POR MATAR LA ULTIMA ESPERANZA DE JUSTICIA PARA UN PAÍS AGRAVIADO POR LA IMPUNIDAD

TODAY MEXICO IS IN MOURNING. THE SUPREME COURT JUST KILLED THE LAST HOPE OF JUSTICE IN A COUNTRY OPPRESSED BY IMPUNITY.

User Montserrat García (@montse_garcia23) questioned the fact that the due process violations were taken into account (since the existence of these do not necessarily imply the crime didn't take place):

Las violaciones procesales no afecta la comisión del delito, no le encuentro sentido, volver a iniciar y resolver en una nueva sentencia

Due process violations don't affect the crime, it doesn't make sense to me, start over and come up with a new sentence.

However, other users like Rocío (@muy_rocio) were happy with the news:

Que bueno q #Cassez se quedo en la carcel. Es culpable, es secuestradora

It's great that #Cassez stayed in jail. She's guilty, she's a kidnapper.

Cassez will stay in prison after the vote of the First Division of the SCJN, but her case will keep being talked about in coming weeks, with opinions as divided as those of the justices.

Thumbnail by Flickr user s_falkow used with permission under license Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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