SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The recent decision by the Mexican Supreme Court in the Cassez case shocked the country in a way that had not occurred since the same court decided to validate a labor resolution in favor of petroleum workers prompting the government to expropriate petroleum companies.
In that case, the Court’s decision to deny an amparo action to 17 companies led to an international conflict. In the present case, the January 2013 decision granted an amparo resulting in the release of Florenz Cassez of French nationality who was accused of kidnapping and previously sentenced by a Collegiate Circuit Tribunal (a federal court) to 60 years in prison, of which seven had already been served.
The case was widely publicized and subject to public opinion in Mexico leading to ample commentary by the media, academics and the public. Most Mexicans consider that an injustice was committed against the kidnapping crime victims. There is a minority of those who believe that it was proper to set Cassez free as a result of irregularities that tainted the legal process and violated the rights of the accused.
This matter escalated as Cassez returned to France immediately after her release and was given a hero’s welcome. It was reported that two French ministers were present at the airport to greet her. Moreover, she met with French President François Hollande at the presidential residence, Palacio del Eliseo. The previous president, Valerie Sarkozy, also had a meeting with Cassez that was widely scrutinized by French media and television.
This case posited two irreconcilable positions: the position of those who believed that the proceeding should be repeated and that the accused should be given a new trial; and on the other extreme, the position of those who consider that the violation of fundamental rights in a legal proceeding invalidates the process and that liberty for Cassez was proper.
The Supreme Court vote on this decision was 5–3; however, public opinion was 80 percent to 20 percent, with 80 percent opposing the Supreme Court decision. While the decision in this case is legally questionable, the least we can expect is for this ordeal to result in a better tone for bilateral relations between Mexico and France given the tension over this issue for the past seven years.
Dr. Mario Melgar-Adalid is a member of Mexico’s National System of Researchers (SNI). He is a Law researcher at UNAM’s Institute of Juridical Research and currently an Of Counsel at Cacheaux, Cavazos & Newton, L.L.P. in San Antonio. He writes a regular column for CCN’s monthly Mexico Report, which also appears in the Guardian. To view all previous versions of the CCN Mexico Report, go to: http://www.ccn-law.com/