|The judge, clerks and jurors after the verdict|
A heavy rain storm started last Sunday and continued until Monday. The weather conditions were so severe that Judge Myriam Rodriguez feared that no prospective jurors would appear for the voir dire hearing scheduled on Monday. The judge herself struggled in order to get to court on time. To her surprise and delight, when she arrived at 8am, she found a queue of forty people waiting for the courthouse doors to open, despite the pouring rain. All prospective jurors arrived on time, even earlier than the judge herself.
But that was not all. Minutes later, juror number 41 arrived on a motorcycle, soaked and apologizing wholeheartedly for the delay. Neither the judge nor anyone in court could anticipate such a demonstration of civic engagement and citizen participation.
When the voir dire came to an end, and the twelve jurors and six alternates were finally chosen, the judge had to dismiss the rest. She decided to address them with a farewell speech. It was then that the judge´s voice broke with emotion and gratitude. Suddenly, the unexpected happened: all the jurors spontaneously gave her a long-lasting, hearty and enthusiastic applause. It was an unforgettable experience that demonstrates that jury trials serve the political purpose that our Framers had in mind when they included jury trials in our Constitution.
The trial and the facts:
On December 12, 2014, in Moreno, Province of Buenos Aires, el Uruguayo Fernando Moreno shot and murdered Luciano Rivero at Moreno’s house. There were no eyewitnesses or known motive for the crime.
Nonetheless, his neighbors reported that he used to boast in their faces that instead of working he earned his money by robbing, mocking those who worked for a living.
Apparently, everything came to light due to a car that was found at his house. El Uruguayo said that the victim went there asking for payment for the car. The car -with doubtful origins- would have been delivered by the victim in exchange for money. The two argued about the payment and -according to the defendant´s story- the victim pulled out a gun, the two struggled, and as part of the struggle, the victim shot himself in the eye.
To start with, the witnesses from the neighborhood asserted that El Uruguayo not only did not know how to drive, but he never had a car. But the most important evidence against the defendant was that after the death of Rivero, El Uruguayo washed his entire house with detergent and threw a mattress over the dead body so his wife would not see it.
Unfortunately for the defendant, Rivero was a tall person and the mattress did not quite hide his head, covered in blood. He told his wife everything, she did not believe him and, therefore, El Uruguayo decided to flee for at least two years until he was finally found in Canelones, Uruguay.
During the trial, prosecutor Guillermo Altube and defense attorney Flavia Karina Astray went head to head when the forensic expert testified.
The expert testimony completely undermined the story told by the defendant. Arguing that there was no struggle and that there were no marks found on the body. In short, the defense’s theory of the case was untenable, and the jury did not believe it.
After a long deliberation, the jury rendered a unanimous verdict: GUILTY of MURDER.