Sunday, May 06, 2007

Eric Volz - Nicaraguan Miscarriage of Justice

I have often wondered how judges, lawyers and other principal players involved in a highly profiled court case are able to objectively carry out their duties under the media glare. Does the intense public scrutiny, and demand for an immediate conviction, ever find the key players wavering, or second guessing their course of action? Has an accused individual ever been falsely convicted as a result of media demand?

In the case of the murder and rape of 25 year old Doris Ivania Jimenez, it appears that the Nicaraguan public determined the fate of ex-boyfriend, Eric Volz, rather than the judge presiding, Judge Ivette Toruno Blanco.

It is unnerving enough that outside influences could affect a trial’s outcome, but it is incomprehensible that a judge’s ruling could be handed down with blatant disregard of key evidence exonerating the suspect. On February 21st, Eric Volz was sentenced to 30 years in jail for the murder of Doris Jimenez.

Doris was murdered in San Juan, Nicaragua, on November 21st, 2006, some time after noon. Eric was in the city of Managua; a two and a half hour drive away. In total, four suspects were arrested: Julion Martin Chamorro, Armando Llanes, Nelson Lopez-Danglas and Eric Volz. Eric was arrested after Lopez-Danglas alleged he had seen Eric in the store on November 21st and that Eric had paid him 50 cordobas to move some bags. In exchange for his confession, police dropped all charges against him.

It was soon apparent that the trial was not going to be fair when the judge would only allow four defence witnesses (out of ten available, including Eric himself) to testify. Furthermore, there wasn’t a court stenographer; the trial was tape recorded and the judge would not provide copies of the transcript to Eric’s attorneys. Then Judge, Ivette Toruno Blanco, went on to refuse medical examiners’ testimony as well as cell phone records and instant messaging documentation.

Here is a list of evidence given (and eventually dismissed by the judge) during the proceedings:

• Doris’ friend, Gabriela Vanessa Sobalvarro stated she phoned Eric, in Managua, at 2:43 p.m. (to inform him of the murder)

• Rossy Aguello, Eric’s hairstylist, testified she had cut Eric's hair at about 2:00 p.m.

• Hertz provided a receipt showing Eric rented a car at 3:11 p.m (to drive to San Juan)

• Ricardo Castillo, a Nicaraguan journalist, met with Eric on the day of the murder from about noon until 2 p.m.

• the prosecutor’s medical experts examined hair, fluid and blood samples, and determined that none of the physical evidence linked Eric to the crime scene

• Nick Purdy, an American journalist, had a conference call with Eric and Ricardo from 12:19 to 1:14 p.m.

Eric is currently doing his time in El Modelo, a maximum-security corrections institute east of Managua. A site has been developed to allow others to be kept aware of Eric’s progress and his recent communication with his parents notes,

"At times, the despair is so overwhelming that there are no words.  There is pain so deep it does not have a name, and the fear is so powerful we cannot paint his face.  Yet, as a result of those who love and support me, I see beauty above it all.”

(image and quote from

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