27 October 2008
The case of Leonor Cipriano, or how to test reason
Let’s see if I have properly understood the case against the five PJ inspectors that are going to stand trial in Faro today.
The accusation states that “unknown individuals” were instructed by three PJ inspectors – Pereira Cristóvão, Marques Bom and Leonel Marques – to enter the PJ building in Faro and beat up Leonor Cipriano, in order to make her confess to killing her daughter Joana.
Now you ask, what evidence is there for this? There are, according to Expresso, fourteen photographs that were taken by an employee in Odemira prison, plus assorted medical reports that state that the bruises that Leonor presented could not result from a fall from the stairs. There is also the testimony of Leonor Cipriano, of course, who reportedly gave a detailed description of the beating. The fact that this woman was exaustively analysed by expert psychologists and clinically classified as a sociopath with an ability to lie for self-protection and to pursue her personal interests, was apparently deemed irrelevant by the judge who allowed for this case to even go to trial. Before the court, Mrs Cipriano's words have the exact same value as anyone else's, including police professionals with immaculate careers of decades.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s presume that Leonor was, indeed, beaten by someone, and that the suggestion that was made by one of the defense lawyers last Friday, who came forward with homemade samples of how to use Photoshop to achieve certain effects, was simply a strategy to instill doubt into our naturally skeptical minds.
Is there a single piece of information that allows for anyone to establish a nexus of causality between Leonor’s bruises and the “unidentified individuals” that were allegedly hired by the three inspectors to inflict torture on the prisoner?
Unless there is information in the process that has not been disclosed to the public, I don’t think that any rational, straight thinking person can objectively say that there is any type of evidence linking Leonor’s apparent physical state to these three inspectors.
Leonor failed to identify any one of them as the perpetrators of her torture session.
Therefore, the accusation could only conclude that “unknown persons” were directly responsible for the alleged beating; "unidentified individuals" who must have entered the PJ's building under orders of the three inspectors, unseen by anyone including Leonor herself who apparently never managed to even remotely describe the persons who assaulted her.
Now you will forgive me this comparison, but as a Christian, I have often been confronted with the argument that ‘we’ invented God in order to explain the things in life that escape our understanding. It seems to me that someone is inventing “unidentified persons” in order to force an explanation for a situation that defies logics.
And while we’re talking about logics, what sense does it make to try to force a confession out of a prisoner who had already confessed to the crime in the first place – a confession that is completely worthless as it can be retracted in court? The only thing that was presumably important for the PJ at that point, would be to find Joana’s body; if there was any reason to exert pressure on Leonor and on her brother João – who coincidentally ‘remembered’ that he had also been tortured by the PJ, when the Madeleine McCann case was well under way, along with a media campaign to discredit the investigative police force – its only purpose could have been to discover the little girl’s body. But the reported fact remains that Leonor accuses her ‘torturers’ of trying to extract a confession over murder, nothing else.
There are certainly issues in this trial that should be addressed: if it is true that Leonor was questioned without a lawyer present, that fact shows a considerable lack of caution on behalf of the PJ; a lack of caution that cost them dearly, as the present situation unfortunately shows. Any single PJ inspector that ever feels tempted to repeat this ‘stunt’ in the future will surely think twice.
Another issue that should be evaluated is the sudden ease with which people go around accusing perfectly respectable people – remember the principle of the presumption of innocence? – of slapping them around for absolutely no reason. As things stand, the vast majority of the Portuguese population would gladly slap Leonor and her former partner Leandro around. There is no need for Leandro to increase this disposition by going live on television to defame Dr Gonçalo Amaral, whom he so familiarly addresses as ‘Gonçalo’. The poor man definitely failed to realize that he was not helping Leonor’s case at all.
After media reports on Friday informed us that the case judge accepted an imposition that was made by the Lawyers’ Order, which clearly serves no other purpose than to promote the personal agenda of the Head of the Order while instilling collateral damages on the defense strategy, one has to ask: Will justice be served in a case that looks more Kafkaesque by the day?
We cannot hope otherwise. The contrary would be a statement of complete faithlessness in the judicial system of this country.