Press and family members of the seven men accused of murdering Costa Rican sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora packed a Limón courtroom on 26 January 2015 as the defendants were acquitted of the murder. Photo: Lindsay Fendt / The Tico Times

Update, 6:46 p.m., 26 January 2015:

Early Monday evening, Broad Front Party lawmaker Edgardo Araya filed a motion in the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental Commission to call Costa Rica’s Chief Public Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría to testify before the commission regarding “the omissions by the Prosecutor’s Office in the Jairo Mora case,” according to a post on Araya’s Facebook. “No more impunity,” Araya stated.

Original story continues here:

By Lindsay Fendt
26 January 2015

LIMÓN – After three months of trial marked by continuous delays and setbacks, a Limón court on Monday morning acquitted seven men of the murder of 26-year-old sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora on the night of May 31, 2013, citing reasonable doubt, discarded evidence and an ineffective investigation.

Defendants surnamed Arauz, Salmón (brother of defendant Donald Salmón) and Loaiza will walk free, absolved of all crimes, while Hectór Cash, Ernesto Centeno, José Bryan Delgado and Donald Salmón will serve prison sentences for a prior rape and robbery on the same beach. All seven defendants were acquitted of the kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault and murder that took place on the night of May 31, 2013, when Mora was killed.

That night, a band of masked men captured Mora, who worked at a nearby wildlife refuge, along with four foreign volunteers from Moín Beach near Limón, on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. The group  had gone to the beach to collect leatherback sea turtle eggs to rebury them safely away from the poachers that frequented Moín. As the group was returning to the sanctuary, they encountered a log blocking the road, and when Mora exited the car to remove it, he was ambushed by a group of masked men. The men took the four women to an abandoned house, while Mora was taken to the beach, beaten and dragged naked behind a car. He died of asphyxiation in the sand.

Following the verdict, Jairo Mora’s parents, Rafael Mora and Fernanda Sandoval, were too visibly upset to comment to a Tico Times reporter.

The prosecution alleged that the seven defendants were members of a known poaching gang and murdered Mora because of his role protecting turtles on the beach. Judges cited the legal principle of in dubio pro reo, which means the court must rule in favor of defendants when reasonable doubt exists.

In her explanation of the verdict, Judge Yolanda Alvaredo said the mishandling of evidence by investigators, prosecutors and preliminary courts contributed to this doubt. She also cited an incomplete investigation that was unable to determine with exactitude the identities of the perpetrators.

“Lamentably the management of evidence broke the chain of proof in this case,” Alvaredo said.[more]

NOT GUILTY: 7 men acquitted of murder of Costa Rica sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora



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