Florence Cassez after being freed from prison

A French national has been freed after after a Mexican court overturned her 60-year sentence for belonging to a kidnapping gang, due to failings such as the police staging a fake arrest for the media.

Supreme Court judges voted to free 38-year-old Florence Cassez, who has been held in a Mexican prison since her arrested in 2005 for aiding a kidnapping ring called the Zodiacs, run by her Mexican boyfriend, reported the Associated Press.

The judges quashed the verdict due to a series of procedural irregularites and violations of Cassez's rights, including police forcing her to take part in a staged recreation of her arrest for the media, which included images of supposed kidnap victims being freed, and holding her without consular assistance. However, the court did not rule on whether she was guilty of the charges.

In France, Cassez's friends and family, along with the media and politicians, have long campaigned for her release, and the case had become a source of diplomatic tension between France and Mexico. In contrast, in Mexico, the ruling was greeted with dismay by people who had been kidnapped by the group, and relatives of victims.

Cassez admited she had lived in the ranch outside Mexico City where the gang held their victims, but denied any role in the kidnapping.

The original trial included the testimony of three victims of the gang, one of whom claimed Cassez had threatened to cut off his finger, France24 reported. However, the judge who paved the way for her relase by ordering a review of the case in May declared that some of the testimony should be discounted as it was contradictory, and possibly influenced by the police's staged recreation.

Insight Crime Analysis

Cassez's case demonstrates the failures of Mexico's historically corrupt justice system, which saw a 90 percent impunity rate for all crimes under the government of Felipe Calderon, according to the United Nations.

Cases often flounder due to irregular arrests and investigations, or corruption. In a high-profile case last year, the former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, was freed after it was revealed the army had manipulated evidence against him.

However, Cassez's release may reinforce the sense that crimes such as kidnapping are not punished in Mexico, which has one of the worst kidnapping rates in the world -- an average of 72 a day in 2012, according to non-governmental organization the Council for Law and Human Rights (Consejo para la Ley y los Derechos Humanos - CLDH).

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...