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Eric Volz

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Because of public sentiment running high against him, Volz elected for trial before a judge instead of a jury. Volz was held in a number of prisons and was repeatedly threatened and had to spend a week in a medical ward. The trial was set down for 26 January 2007 and a pre-trial judge, at a special hearing, ordered Volz released to house arrest until the date, which was eventually delayed until 14 February 2007.
The trial was heard before a specialised trial judge, Dr Ivette Turuno Blanco. Volz’s family were plainly struggling to understand the Nicaraguan justice system and comments they made were seized upon by the partisan local press. Jimenez’s mother, Mercedes Alvarado, spurred public sentiment by claiming she had been offered $1,000,000 to testify to Volz’s innocence, an offer the Volz family were in no position to make and that they emphatically denied. The Volz family had mobilised public support in the United States in favour of their son and the trial was followed by thousands of well-wishers, through internet blogs written by Volz’s parents who had nearly bankrupted themselves to pay for his defence.
Court files show the original charges of murder were against Volz and Llanes, Jimenez’s boyfriend at the time of the murder. The charges were based on Lopez’s ‘confession’ but were later amended to include all four men, Volz, Llanes, Lopez and Dangla. They were further amended to charge only Lopez and Volz after Llanes produced his alibi and Dangla turned state’s witness.
Dangla was the prosecution’s star witness. He testified that he had seen Volz on the morning of the murder in San Juan and that Volz had told Dangla to meet him at Sol Fashion at 1pm. Dangla said Volz came out of the store at 1pm, handed him two bags full of what felt like clothes and told him to put them in the car. Volz then allegedly paid Dangla 50 cordobas before driving off in the direction of Managua. Jimenez’s mother testified to Volz’s jealousy but the only witness to put Volz at the scene was Dangla, whose testimony was so poorly presented it was laughed at by all present, including the judge.
The defence case attempted to detail Volz’s alibi, including the ten or so people who had seen him in Managua up to, during and after the murder, but the judge threw out all but three witnesses. A hairdresser testified she had cut Volz’s hair on the afternoon in question and the other two witnesses, the American business contact and the journalist Ricardo Castillo, testified to being in a meeting with him the whole time. The defence showed that none of the physical evidence at the crime scene had come from Volz. Both Lopez and Dangla had fingernail scratches on their arms and Dangla had multiple scratches to various parts of his body. Volz testified in his own defence. When asked how he had got the scratch found on his shoulder he answered, “I got it carrying Doris's casket at the funeral”.
Lopez, Volz’s co-accused, had one witness called in his defence and did not take the stand himself. Outside the court, tempers were running high and a mob of hundreds of Nicaraguans was being held back by national police. During the defence summation, shooting began as riot police battled enraged protestors.
The judge returned her verdict after two hours deliberation. On 15 February 2007 she rejected all Volz’s witnesses to his alibi, told him it was impossible to get scratches from carrying a coffin and that it was impossible to get to San Juan del Sur as quickly as he did from the capital. She found both defendants guilty and sentenced them to the maximum term of 30 years. The mob outside the court celebrated wildly, shouting “Justice!” and whistling.