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Puerto Rico is in a state of shock after the ruling of a judge from the Superior Court of San Juan in the case of a young woman, Francheska Duarte, who was run over and later abandoned in an emergency medical centre by her ex-boyfriend on December 19, 2011. The young mother was caught between two cars and lost both her legs due to the extent of her injuries.
Nerisvel Durán, the judge presiding over the case, found Francheska's former boyfriend Jorge Ramos guilty only of the less serious misdemeanor of negligent injury and violation of Puerto Rico's traffic laws; the charges of aggravated battery that were brought against him were dismissed. Ramos was also on probation for charges related to drug trafficking. The judge justified his decision by saying that the prosecution failed to prove that Ramos intended to hurt the young woman.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, interceded on behalf of Francheska calling for the maximum sentence to be imposed upon the offender, which in this case would be three years’ imprisonment. He said he found the judge's decision strange:
Desgraciadamente, tenemos que respetar el tercer poder, el poder judicial. No quiero que se malinterpreten mis comentarios… pero choca, a base de los hechos que conocemos públicamente, uno esperaría que (la decisión judicial) sea más fuerte.
The general sense of disbelief at the judge's decision can be seen on social networks. Several people have shared news of the judge's shortcomings, and at least two Facebook pages showing support for Francheska Duarte have been launched. Twitter user David Rivera said:
@davidrivera1285: Como la jueza tiene sus piernas pues q se joda!
Kay.Emn directed her frustration at Puerto Rico's judicial system:
@karlivyris: Sistema judicial tan basura
Journalist Benjamín Torres Gotay made the following observation:
@TorresGotay: Miren el caso de Francheska Duarte y pregúntense por qué es que nadie cree nada en este país.
Francheska's case is part of an alarming trend of violence against women in Puerto Rico. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of cases of violence against women. A dramatic example of this was in 2011, the year in which a four-month period saw 16 women killed by their partners, which equalled the total number of murders of women in the entire 2007. Professor Diana Valle Ferrer, in an article published last year in Prensa Comunitaria, says:
Este entramado de violencia ejercido contra las mujeres ha sido reconocido a nivel global como una epidemia o pandemia, y en Puerto Rico como una emergencia social. Tal vez algunas personas piensan que esto es una exageración o una hipérbole pero los números y los hechos no mienten.
It is necessary to add that the Dominican community in Puerto Rico (Francheska is Dominican) has been and continues to be victimised by ethnic violence and discrimination. Puerto Rico's Consul of the Dominican Republic, Maximo Taveras, said that the judge's ruling could be a result of this discrimination:
Este fallo puede ser interpretado como una acción discriminatoria por el origen de la perjudicada, lo que consideramos como un revés y un precedente nefasto para la administración de justicia en Puerto Rico, especialmente en el procesamiento de los casos en que las víctimas son inmigrantes.
The Consul said that he has asked the Attorney General, Guillermo Somoza, to see if there is a way the case can be reviewed. Somoza has affirmed that the case cannot be reviewed because the law prohibits double jeopardy, which is known in legal terms as non bis in idem.
The Dominican community is holding a march scheduled for next July 1 in support of Francheska Duarte and all the survivors of domestic violence and their families. Luis Aguasvivas, one of the coordinators of the march and president of the Dominican Parade in Puerto Rico said:
Necesitamos darle un importante espaldarazo y apoyo como sociedad, a las víctimas y sus familiares, enviarles el mensaje claro de que no están solos, que cada ciudadano de buen corazón estamos con ellos.