March 22, 2007

Outrage growing over rigged trial of California expat in Nicaragua

The Wall Street Journal covered the situation of Eric Volz on their front cover on Monday. Mr. Volz had been a student of Latin American studies at the University of California, San Diego, when he moved to San Juan to pursue a dream of starting a bilingual magazine. Something went horribly wrong with his dream, however, as he was charged with the murder and rape of his girlfriend and given a sentence of 30 years after an obviously grossly unfair show trial complete with anti-American mobs outside the court room:

In Nicaragua, the Volz case became a tabloid sensation with headlines cheering the near lynching of the Gringo. There were declarative statements from prosecutor Peña labeling Volz’s alibi as false, as well as misrepresenting evidence, demands for “justice,” cries to not let the Gringo buy his way out… On the day before Eric’s preliminary hearing, announcements were made via loud speakers throughout the streets of San Juan encouraging San Juan residents to attend the hearing so they can “Stand up for their rights and bring justice to the gringo. An angry mob, numbering in the hundreds and wielding machetes and clubs, waited outside the courthouse chanting, “Send out the gringo, we’ll kill him!”

There was strong evidence that Mr. Volz wasn’t even San Juan at the time of the crime but was in Managua over two hours away. Judge Ivette Toruño Blanco, however, threw out all the defense evidence, which included testimony of multiple alibi witnesses, cell phone and computer records, signed credit vouchers, and more. Two other men – native Nicaraguans – had also been arrested and charged with the murder and rape but the first judge to hear the case dropped all charges against the two Nicaraguan defendants. The only testimony allowed was from one of the men who had also been accused of the murder and this was used as the sole basis of the conviction. The family of Mr. Volz, with assistance of the State Department, is now trying to arrange an appeal in another city where it is hoped there will be less bigotry towards Americans and the actual facts of the case can be considered.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Legal and Criminal Issues, Nicaragua by

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