Thursday, September 19, 2013

Landaverde Murder Update

When is attempted murder not a crime?

Why, in the Unified Courts of the department of Francisco Morazan, of course.

What passes for legal opinions from supposedly qualified judges in Honduras is sometimes surreal.

Marvin Noé Andino Mascareño stood accused of attempted homicide against Hilda Caldera, for wounding her while murdering her husband, Alfredo Landaverde, on September 7, 2011.  Landaverde was driving, and his wife was a passenger, in their car when at least four gunmen openend fire on them at an intersection as they stopped for a red light.

Andino was found innocent by Judge Ivan Castelar yesterday because, according to him, the attack was not directed at Caldera, but rather at her husband who was driving the car at the time.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  Castelar found Andino  innocent because Caldera was just in the way of his bullets, which really were aimed at Landaverde. So it wasn't attempted murder according to the Judge.

The Honduran Penal Code disagrees with Castelar about the need for a determination that there needs to be a demonstration that he intended to kill Caldera for Andino to have committed attempted murder.  That is a requirement of charging someone with the crime of murder.  But attempted murder is defined in article 15, which states that:
A crime is attempted when with intent to commit a particular crime, a person commits unequivocal acts that are not beyond the control of the agent.

So it should be attempted murder if, in the attempt to commit murder, you accidentally shoot someone else.  You only need to show premeditation if the charge is "murder".

Caldera, when asked to comment on the verdict, said
"They also shot at me, for a week I had a bullet in my shoulder....My God!  They shot me."

Caldera said that Judge Castelar has been obstructing the clarification of what actually happened, and who was responsible:
"I believe that this man (Castelar) is not for justice, he is not looking for any truth.  He does not want the case to go forward."

First, he refused to allow witness testimony during the preliminary hearing.  Second, he denied the witnesses' requests to testify in a closed court room in order to hide their identities from those they were implicating,  Now, he has cleared one of the shooters of trying to kill her. She also said:
"[They] killed my husband, they shot me, and he says that's not a crime.  He [the Judge] should explain that to the people of Honduras what is a crime in this country; we don't share his understanding."

Castelar has been involved in a number of high profile cases that put him in conflict with the Public Prosecutor's office.  In 2009 he dismissed charges against 24 college students for constructing or possessing molotov cocktails because the police had illegally raided university property with a prosecutor being present.  In 2011 he was summoned to give testimony for unnamed reasons which Castelar associated with his having given substitute punishments to a number of criminals instead of putting them in prison. At the time, Castelar told the press:
"I take it as an act of intimidation; they are putting pressure on us (the judges)." 

In 2013 he controversially gave house arrest to Marcello Chimirri, accused of embezzling from Hondutel.

His latest verdict, however, surpasses any of his previous actions: it would open the door for exonerating perpetrators of violent deaths of bystanders throughout Honduras, on the theory that if they didn't mean to do it, they aren't culpable.

Call it the "oops!" defense.

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