The only reason Florence Cassez is international news and not just the blatant tabloid exploitation of Mexican press is because the French government has been officially protesting Florence's incarceration since day one ("day one" being back in December 2005). Outside of the French and Mexican news, I doubt it's made the front page anywhere else.
|Florence Cassez in prison.|
This begs the question: why was she given a 96-year sentence at first? Is that even lawful?
In any case, Florence is 37, so 60 years basically means life in prison.
clamored for Cassez
to remain in Mexico.
But Mexico refused. Why? Because French law would reduce her sentence, and she'd never serve the 60 years.
Mexico wanted blood. The outrage, product of the violence Mexico has been suffering for the past decade, poured out in newspapers, TV, in every conversation, and found its focus in the French girl. There's no death penalty in Mexico, but if there were, Florence might have been flayed and burned at the stake in the city square, to a chorus of barbarian cheering.
|Mexican President Calderon (right)|
and French President Sarkozy (left)
with their wives, when they were
still civil to each other.
Her attorneys filed a last appeal--amparo--to the Supreme Court in 2010. As you may or may not know, courts of last resort debate mainly on matters of form: were the proceedings lawful? Florence's attorneys argued that they hadn't.
You're thinking, of course they would--they're lawyers. They have to argue something.
Turns out they may have a point.
|Florence and the boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, as |
they're "arrested" for the cameras on Dec. 9, 2005.
December 9, 2005.
Where was Florence from the time she was arrested on Dec. 8 until the morning of Dec 9 when her face was plastered all over the news?
Apparently, she was held in a van somewhere. No, not a holding cell, not a lawyer's office, not a police station. A van.
Was she formally arrested? Was she processed? Was she given the opportunity to call her legal counsel, her embassy?
The police chief at the time, Genaro Garcia Luna, heard about her arrest on Dec. 8 and saw the possibilities. Instant stardom for himself, of course, and the perfect opportunity to appease the masses clamoring for a stop to the violence racking the country.
So he staged the raid the next day.
He staged the raid.
How do we know this for a fact, you ask? Because a few weeks later, Mr. Garcia Luna was at a live TV show (no doubt expounding the merits of his police force) when Florence called in (from prison, one presumes). Live, on national TV, she challenged him on the facts of her arrest, and got him to admit the staging of the raid--and thus her illegal captivity from Dec 8 to Dec 9 at the hands of police.
|Garcia Luna and President Calderon|
We agree that kidnapping is wrong, right? The deprivation of liberty of any individual, for whatever reason, is wrong.
Maybe I'm missing a small-print clause in Mexican legislation that states police are exempt from this. Maybe the police thought this was "an eye for an eye", and they decided to mete out instant justice, give her a taste of her own medicine.
Or perhaps the police would argue that the end justifies the means, that keeping Florence's capture secret for some sixteen hours was key for... Dissolving the kidnapping ring? Capturing a player higher in the organization? None of those things happened.
|Garcia Luna at a press conference|
Bottom line? Mr. Garcia Luna, esteemed Secretary of Public Security, and his penchant for the spotlight may cost the liberty of Florence Cassez. The Supreme Court ruled last month against setting her free--for the time being. They also left open the possibility of a retrial, based on the irregularities surrounding her arrest:
- She wasn't allowed to call her embassy at the time of her arrest (Dec. 8);
- The French consul wasn't apprised of her arrest until a day after her arrest; and
- There was no presumption of innocence. When one is presumed innocent, one doesn't get sequestered in a van to wait while the media takes position outside a ranch where three kidnapping victims are going to be "found" and "rescued" for the TV cameras to catch every move.
Wikipedia article on her for more info, as well as the English version of the official Free Florence Cassez site (French, of course).
One day, this case will make a great novel. In the meantime, we Mexicans will just hang our head in shame.