Nov 30, 2011

Mapuche: Police Officer Receives Reduced Sentence for Murder

Originally given a fifteen year sentence, Patricio Jara Muñoz will now spend only five years in prison for the murder of Jaime Mendoza Collio, a 24-year-old member of Chile’s indigenous community.  Collio was shot two years ago following an argument with Muñoz over land in traditional indigenous territory.

Below is an article published by Indigenous News:

More than two years after Chilean police officer Patricio Jara Muñoz shot and killed a 24-year-old Mapuche man named Jaime Mendoza Collío, the Military Court of Valdivia issued a sentence of five years and one day for Jara. This is a reduction in the fifteen year sentence that Jara was originally given — a sentence that was originally recommended by the Military Prosecutor in the case. At the time of this writing, no explanation for the reduction in penalty has been made public.

This court case arose out of an incident that took place on August 12, 2009, when Jaime Mendoza Collío was shot and killed by Jara, a Chilean police officer (carabinero). The shooting occurred in the context of a land dispute over traditional Mapuche territory. Specifically, the dispute was over a parcel of land known as San Sebastián, which is within the comunas of Ercilla and Angol. On the date of the shooting, the land had been occupied by Mapuche individuals whom the police sought to remove. The shooting, however, took place more than a kilometer from the cite while Mendoza was reportedly fleeing.

Within a week of Mendoza’s death, the officer was charged with using unnecessary force that resulted in death, and has defended himself by arguing that the force was justifiable given the circumstances. In December of 2010, the Military Court of Valdivia sentenced Jara to fifteen years in prison, but that sentence was immediately appealed. The officer argued that he only fired after dozens and dozens of shots had been fired towards him. Despite these claims, there was no evidence of gunpowder residue on Jara’s clothing and the autopsy report revealed that Menoda was shot in the back. The Temuco Court of Appeals became involved to make a final determination on the claim that the shooting was justified. And on August of 2011 — just one day before various memorials of the shooting took place across Chile — the Temuco Court of Appeals – entered a final judgment that rejected the officer’s defense that the shooting was justified.

The case then returned to the Military Court of Valdivia for sentencing. Despite the facts about the shooting and the Appellate Court’s ruling, another round of procedures ultimately resulted in the reduction of Jara’s sentence from 15 years to 5 years. The exact legal procedure from this point on is a bit unclear. According to a report from Radio Cooperativa, now that the Military Court’s decision is final, it can be reviewed by an appellate court and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.