MGR News Analysis
Cancún, Quintana Roo -
Mexican criminal trials tend to be long, drawn out affairs. Former Survivor producer Bruce Beresford-Redman's is no exception, as it plods along in this Riviera Maya resort at a snail's pace. No one has a clue when the trial judge might get around to delivering a verdict, despite the fact that the crime being prosecuted occurred almost four years ago. They don't say mañana in this country for nothing.
In January 2012 Beresford-Redman was put on an aircraft belonging to Quintana Roo's Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGJ) - that's the state Attorney General - and flown from Los Angeles to Cancún. On Feb. 15 a judge found there was sufficient evidence to hold him for trial, after reviewing evidence in a proceeding which was the rough equivalent of a U.S. preliminary hearing. Former U.S. TV producer bound over for trial in Cancún murder.
Beresford-Redman's Mexican defense counsel challenged that ruling and filed an appeal, hoping to short circuit a trial altogether. It didn't work, and the appeal was denied in July 2012. No release for Bruce Beresford-Redman.
The trial itself got underway in earnest in early 2013, and is still proceeding 16 months later.
Beresford-Redman is charged with murdering his wife, Mónica Burgos, while the two were on vacation here in April 2010. Prosecutors allege that he killed Burgos during a heated argument. Her body was found in a drainage lagoon near the Moon Palace resort, after he reported to authorities that she was missing. Both the cause and time of her death are hotly disputed by the defense. Prosecutors allege that an ongoing affair with another woman was one of Beresford-Redman's motives.
When Burgos' body was recovered Cancún police told Beresford-Redman that he was a suspect in the case, and instructed him not to leave the city. He did so anyway, fleeing to Los Angeles. Mexico filed an international warrant in November 2010, and Beresford-Redman was arrested there soon after. He waged a long but unsuccessful fight to avoid extradition to Mexico, and was returned here early in 2012, courtesy of the friendly folks at PGJ Airlines. The U.S. judge who ordered the extradition was required to and did conduct an overview of the evidence against Beresford-Redman, finding it quite sufficient to send him back to Mexico for trial.
More than a year ago the local press claimed the prosecution's case was "plagued with irregularities," including the disappearance of virtually all the evidence seized by forensic investigators at the scene where Burgos' body was discovered, and in the couple's hotel room. For reasons unknown, a former director of state forensic services apparently ordered the destruction of clothing, hair and blood stain samples. Compounding those errors, the original crime reconstruction specialist - who was to have offered expert opinion on how and where the homicide occurred - was replaced by another technician who had only recently entered the case. The trial judge refused to admit the technician's testimony, allegedly leaving the state's case in shambles. Mexico's case against Bruce Beresford-Redman in jeopardy over technical errors.
In January a court appointed expert testified he could not find anything to forensically link Beresford-Redman to the crime, a development which prompted the defense to demand dismissal. Considering most of the physical evidence of the crime is no longer in existence, however, the expert's testimony may have had less impact on the trial judge than Beresford-Redman's diligent counsel had hoped for.
Meanwhile, as the trial plods on in this city the defendant's U.S. legal team is trying a new approach to free him. Perhaps Beresford-Redman reads Proverbs, which aptly notes (11:14), "In a multitude of counsel, there is safety."
Attorneys in the States have filed a motion with a federal district court in California, alleging Mexican authorities "lied to and deceived" the judge who had to decide whether to allow Beresford-Redman's extradition to Mexico. The lawyers claim that Q.R. prosecutors greatly overstated the strength of their case, deliberately misrepresenting what they knew they would be able to prove - or not prove - once they were in a trial court here. The U.S. Justice Dept., which litigated the extradition application filed by Mexico in 2010, has not yet responded.
Quoting the defense motion, a Mexican newspaper today wrote this:
"The evidence demonstrating Beresford-Redman's innocence is clear. He is a U.S. citizen and needs the protection of the American justice system. We cannot permit foreign governments to lie and [to falsely accuse] U.S. citizens, solely to protect the reputation of the tourism industry." According to the paper, authorities are desperate to prosecute someone for Burgos' vicious unsolved murder, and her husband is the most convenient candidate.
The defense's curious motion, which may earn an "A" for creativity, is a guaranteed legal nonstarter. An ancient principle of jurisdiction holds that once a sovereign has the body of an accused on its soil, any and all arguments about how and why he ended up there become irrelevant. Former Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega learned that law book rule the hard way. Captured by U.S Marines during the 1989 invasion of his country, he was returned as a "prisoner of war" to American soil, where he was tried for and convicted of numerous federal offenses, including drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. A judge listened to impassioned arguments by Noriega's attorneys that "having been transported to the U.S. without benefit of an extradition order or other legal process, he must be returned to his own land," and then promptly denied all the motions seeking his release. So it will be with Bruce Beresford-Redman, in a case with much less legal significance than General Noriega's.
Beresford-Redman, who is charged with an offense called Homicide with Advantage, faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted. He is not entitled to bail and remains in custody in a Quintana Roo jail.
The Brazil born Burgos was 43 at the time of her death. Prosecution evidence shows she suffered a violent blow to the head which caused her to lose consciousness immediately. Burgos died from a cerebral hemorrhage and asphyxia, according to medical evidence presented at the trial.
Aug. 10, 2013 - No exit for Survivor producer Bruce Beresford-Redman
April 12, 2013 - U.S. national sentenced to 13 years in Guanajuato murder
Noriega was the tough guy of Panama City, but he found himself stuck in a Miami federal courtroom
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