‘Drunk & stupid’ defense reduces killers’ sentence

Do drunks have a get-out-of-jail free card in Nicaragua?

(posted Feb. 17, 5:30 p.m.)- Human rights activists and opposition politicians are reacting with disgust and outrage today to a court ruling that will put two Sandinista activists behind bars for only 3 years for killing a family of three and seriously wounding two others during a bout of post-electoral violence in the rural northern community of Cusmapa following President Daniel Ortega’s reelection last November.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) argues the judge’s sentence is too light and in clear violation of the law, which clearly stipulates a 10-to 15-year minimum prison sentence for homicide.

The sentences for the two carousing Sandinista murderers was reduced to 3 years because they were reportedly drunk at the time of their killing spree.

Cenidh claims the two men—one a former Sandinista political secretary and the other a Sandinista poll watcher—had their sentences reduced because of their political affiliations, in clear violation of any rule of law.

“The decision (by the judge) violates the principle of legality, the constitutional mandate to respect human rights in the administration of justice, judicial security and access to justice,” Cenidh said in a blistering statement on today’s ruling.

“These types of rulings promote impunity and violate Nicaragua’s international commitments to protect human rights,” Cenidh said.

Furthermore, Cenidh lambasted the “drunken frat boy defense”—the idea that somehow an individual cannot be legally held to account for his actions if he get loaded enough first (a legal precedent that has drunken delinquents missing high-fives with one another all across the country, as they get wasted and loud in stupid in celebration of the impunity).

Cenidh notes that the Sandinista court system set the horrific precedent for the frat-boy defense last year by reducing the prison sentence—and eventually pardoning altogether—for another Sandinista who used the drunk-and-stupid defense to wiggle out of doing hard time for raping his colleague, Fatima Hernández.

The opposition is also complaining.

Opposition lawmaker Armando Herrera, who represents the northern department of Madriz where the killings took place, said the sentence shows the “the manipulation by the long arm of Orteguismo.”

“We consider this sentence to be an embarrassment, without any judicial sense, and a clear evidence of the political-partisan management with which our fragile judicial system is manipulated to punish the innocent and absolve the guilty who serve the dictator,” reads a statement released by the opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI).

 

  • Ken

    This disturbs me too, since it appears to be further evidence of a politicized CJ system, but I wonder if the defense really was “drunk and stupid”? A more plausible defense strikes me as “caught up in the heat of the moment.” There is a lot of evidence that ordinary law-abiding and moral people do terrible things in mob-like atmospheres, and I’m not so sure that context is irrelevant. Of course, if it is relevant, it is for non-Sandinistas too, so the selective success of this defense (if true) would still be troubling. Neither defense though strikes me as similar to that used successfully by the rapist.

  • Concerned

    An independent judiciary is exactly what Nicaragua needs. However this would limit the power of the President and party in power.

    On the other hand it would be the fastest way for Sandanistas to show the world they are willing to accept the rule of law. At present the whole idea of checks and balances on power just isn’t part of the mind set of even the opposition.

  • ElJefe

    I was under the impression that most judicial systems did not recognize the “drunk and stupid” defense and held individuals to account regardless. However, this is Nicaragua where lead floats and cork sinks. How exactly did they kill the family of 3? One would think that crimes that horrendous would make even a politicized judicial system cringe at least a little.

    • The Cat

      What a great question, El Jefe! Surely Ken, he who has all the answers and knows everything, will be sure to answer it. Oh, wait…he hasn’t now, has he.

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