CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – The Chihuahua state legislature has voted to launch impeachment proceedings against three Mexican judges who acquitted a defendant in the 2008 killing of 16-year-old Rubi Marisol Frayre, legislative spokesmen said.
The girl’s boyfriend, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, was arrested and charged with the crime in 2009, but his trial ended on April 30, 2010, in an acquittal, with judges citing a lack of evidence.
Though an appellate court subsequently overturned that decision and found Barraza guilty, he remains at large.
Frayre was killed in 2008 and her mother, Marisela Escobedo, subsequently led marches and protests to demand justice in the case until she herself was gunned down Dec. 16 while picketing in front of government offices in Chihuahua, capital of the like-named state.
The Chihuahua legislature voted Tuesday in favor of a petition filed by the state’s human rights commission to launch impeachment proceedings against judges Catalina Ochoa, Rafael Boudib and Netzahualcoyotl Zuñiga, who were suspended from the bench last month.
The case, followed closely because of assumptions that Barraza or people close to him may also have been behind the killing of Escobedo, has further fueled a public outcry over widespread impunity in Mexico.
Days before her death, Escobedo told El Diario de Juarez newspaper that Barraza’s family had threatened her for trying to conduct her own investigation into her daughter’s murder.
Escobedo said she learned Barraza moved to Zacatecas state after his acquittal in the first trial and that he had joined Los Zetas, perhaps the most ruthless of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.
After Escobedo was killed, the Chihuahua state government posted a reward of 500,000 pesos ($40,650) for information leading to the arrest of Barraza.
The three judges, meanwhile, say they will request political asylum in the United States if charges are brought against them, citing a violation of separation of powers in a case they say has become politicized.
Responding to one controversial aspect of the case, Ochoa denied in an interview with local television Tuesday that Barraza had confessed to killing Frayre.
For his part, the president of the Supreme Court of Chihuahua, Javier Ramirez Benitez, told a press conference Tuesday morning that the judges in Rubi’s case are not being politically persecuted.
“They shouldn’t feel persecuted. (Impeachment proceedings) were launched merely to investigate and seek if there was something that could be construed as official misconduct. If no misconduct is found, then there’ll be no problem and they will be reinstated,” Ramirez Benitez said.
Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte also weighed in on the case, saying the law allows for disciplinary action against judges who do not uphold the law.
Two of Escobedo’s sons who fled to the United States after she was slain are currently being held at an immigration detention facility in El Paso, Texas, pending a response to their asylum request.
Two days after Escobedo was killed, husband Jose Monge Amparan’s lumber yard in Ciudad Juarez was burned down. Jose’s brother, Manuel Monge, turned up dead a day after the arson attack.
At least five community activists have been murdered in the past two years in Chihuahua, where they must contend with violence from drug traffickers and abuses at the hands of federal forces.
Juarez, where more than 3,100 people were slain last year, is Mexico’s murder capital, while Chihuahua accounts for more than a third of the 30,000-plus drug-war deaths reported nationwide since December 2006. EFE