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(506) 2223-1327                        San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 18                                Email us
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;ale Arenal

Acquittals in Jairo Mora case were unexpected
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was widespread surprise and condemnation Monday when a court in Limón acquitted seven men in the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval.

The Poder Judicial quickly noted the verdict is subject to appeal and that the president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Zarela Villanueva Monge, said the law gives judges independence.

The trial panel said that there were errors in the investigation of the case and the safeguarding of evidence. Some lawmakers are calling for an appearance by Jorge Chavarría, the fiscal general de la República, Carmen Zúñiga, the fiscal of the Tribunal de Juicio in Limón, and Francisco Segura, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Marcela Guerrero Campos of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said the acquittal on technical grounds damages the image of Costa Rica.

Perhaps the most outspoken was Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He called the verdict a sad, sad day for justice in Costa Rica.

"It is not surprising that the seven men charged with the murder of Jairo Mora Sandoval have been acquitted," Watson said on a Facebook page. "Evidence was conveniently lost, and the court made numerous errors, and although these men clearly are responsible for killing Jairo, they get to walk, although four of them will serve time for rape and robbery of tourists
on the same beach. All seven were acquitted of murder, kidnapping, sexual ...assault and robbery involving Jairo Mora Sandoval and the volunteer women turtle conservationists working with him."

He called Jairo Mora a martyr and added "he is in my opinion the greatest conservation hero in the history of Costa Rica, and the system has failed him, and it did so because of corruption and politics. The narco-poachers have won again, not surprising — they have the money, the power and the ruthless determination to advance their greed at all costs."

The case began May 31, 2013  when Mora and volunteers were traveling to a Caribbean beach, Playa Moín, on a mission to protect turtles. They were confronted by men who took Mora away and held the volunteers hostage for a time in a nearby dwelling.

The judges said that both the prosecution and investigators lacked rigor in handling evidence including breaks in the chain of custody. Problems also existed in the presentation of the case of the three U.S. volunteers and a Spanish woman who were held hostage while Mora was dragged to his death at the nearby beach.

The judges cited errors in the handling of wiretap results including a lack of attributing ownership of certain cell phones to the accused.

Three of the accused are free, but four others were convicted of robbery and holding people against their will. They will serve terms ranging up to 27 years.


New York has seen some big snow storms before
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

My grandfather, visiting the north Jersey areas for Christmas from Scranton, Pennsylvania, picked the wrong time to get ill. The doctor said appendix and put him in St. Francis Hospital for Christmas Eve.

As the extended family gathered around the tree Christmas evening, as was the custom, we thought a lot about Papa Tom and not much about the quiet snow beginning to fall outside.

We were unaware that this was the start of the Great Blizzard of 1947. Eventually there would be three feet of snow on the ground and drifts much higher.

The New York newspapers were making comparisons to the Blizzard of '88 that paralyzed the region for weeks.

My grandfather recovered well despite the fact he was portly. The big problem was visiting him. Transportation was snowed in.  A few brave sons and daughters managed to hike in the heavy snow to the hospital to confirm his well being.

For schoolkids, as I was at the time, the storm was at first a big letdown.

After all, classes already were canceled for the Christmas holidays, and the snow
great blizzard
New York Public Library photo
Motorist digs out after Great Blizzard.

would be gone by the time schools reopened after New Year's.

Unlike the storm that is hitting the northeastern United States today, there was no warning in 1947.  There were no satellites to track the storm, and the blizzard snuck in from the Atlantic after having picked up strength from the Gulf Stream. That is an unexpected direction for northeastern storms because most of the weather comes from the west.

Papa Tom missed all the fun. By the time he exited the hospital, the streets were cleared and public transportation was back to normal. Snowmen dotted the landscape as did temporary ramps for sledding.

The blizzard was just an act of nature, folks said then. No one blamed global warming or climate change.

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