Three years after she was found guilty of the murder of Canadian businessman Adam Anhang, Áurea Vázquez Rijos’s defense argued before the Boston Circuit of Appeals that the verdict be annulled for alleged errors during the trial and because it has allegedly arisen new evidence on the star witness.
This is clear from the appeal report submitted by the lawyer Lydia Lizarríbar, Vázquez Rijos’s lawyer, whose public version available in the electronic file of the case has many parts crossed out for referring to information that is sealed in the Federal Court of San Juan.
Lizarríbar’s main argument about the alleged new evidence that has emerged after the trial is related to the mental condition of the star witness and confessed murderer, Alex Pabón Colón, alias “El Loco”.
The Federal Court in San Juan has denied the requests for a new trial and rejected the allegations that Pabón Colón was not in a psychological condition to testify at the trial, but that any matter that has been detected after the process does not affect retroactively.
On your appeal, the lawyer alleges that the court did not take any action to assess Pabón Colón’s mental condition before he was allowed to plead guilty in 2008, when he declared that Vázquez Rijos offered him money in exchange for assassinating Anhang.
He noted that by that time he was already “under mental supervision” at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC, for its acronym in English) and “was being prescribed antipsychotic medications.”
He adds that the MDC file showed “religious hallucinations, delusions of persecution, suicidal thoughts and other symptoms that warranted a more thorough examination” and stressed that that year “Pabón Colón was diagnosed with schizophrenia.”
According to the lawyer, the court has denied her requests to determine when Pabón Colón’s mental condition began.
“The MDC records available at the time of the trial were incorrect and misleading; the cross-examination was based on the content of erroneous records, ”stated Lizarríbar.
The document recalls that after the sentence, Pabón Colón sent from MDC a letter to the lawyer “indicating that he wanted to meet with them (defense attorneys) because he had important information for the appeal.”
In June 2019, the first to make public that the confessed murderer wanted to meet with the defense of the accused was the then lawyer of the co-defendant José Ferrer Sosa, Ovidio Zayas, who asked the court to allow him to interview Pabón Colón and included a copy of the letter, handwritten, with the characteristic calligraphy that was also seen in the evidence presented during the trial.
Subsequently, the court restricted access to that motion with the letter.
Then, in September 2019, Lizarríbar informed Boston that he also received a similar letter from Pabón Colón, but did not publish the letter.
Both lawyers requested to meet with Pabón Colón, but the requests were not authorized by the court.
On September 26, Pabón Colón was diagnosed with ongoing schizophrenia, according to Lizarríbar. Since then, the confessed murderer has been subjected to various psychological evaluations, as can be seen from various motions submitted by the defense.
Meanwhile, in the appeal report Lizarríbar argued that his client has the right to request that an independent psychological evaluation be carried out on Pabón Colón to determine when her condition began.
In relation to this point, the lawyer stated in Boston that the Federal Court in San Juan “erred in instructing the jury on the determination that Alex Pabón Colón was competent, which affected the defendant’s rights to due process and to a trial. just”.
Likewise, he claimed to the appellate forum that the “discovery of post-trial evidence was denied, despite the fact that it is the only way to maintain evidence of used documents […] that have evidence of an exculpatory nature for Áurea Vázquez Rijos ”.
In another motion, last March, he told Boston that there is “new exculpatory evidence.”
“The new evidence produced by Pabón Colón at the end of 2020 and that is now part of the file is relevant and material for this appeal,” Lizarríbar pointed out in March of this year.
Meanwhile, in another argument in the appeal report, Lizarríbar denounced that during the trial “contents of the second accusatory statement were used” against her client, when the agreement for Spain to extradite her required that the process be only with the statement issued by a Grand Jury in 2008.
Another point in the appeal questions that the Federal Court in San Juan allowed the transfer of Vázquez Rijos to Italy to be used in the trial as evidence of flight and conscience of guilt. The prosecution alleged that he went to that country because he does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.
“The appellant did not have a fair trial and her conviction must be annulled and the case referred for a new trial,” said the lawyer.
Áurea Vázquez Rijos was found guilty in the federal court of San Juan. (Luis Alcalá Del Olmo)
Vázquez Rijos conspired to assassinate her Canadian husband Adam Anhang. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Marcia Vázquez Rijos, Áurea’s sister, was also found guilty of the crime. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
The co-defendant cried after the verdict, journalist Alex Figueroa said for El Nuevo Día. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
José Ferrer Sosa, Marcia’s ex-boyfriend, received a similar verdict. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Those involved were instantly handcuffed. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Judge Daniel Domínguez did not grant Marcia and José bail. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Domínguez sent Marcia to a psychiatric institution, for the time being. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
In the photo are prosecutors Jennifer Hernández and José Ruiz. Next Tuesday, January 29, 2019, will be the hearing for sentencing. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
The photo shows the head of the Federal Prosecutor Rosa Emilia Rodríguez and the prosecutor José Ruiz. The crimes charged would carry a life sentence. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Abraham Anhang, the victim’s father, was pleased with the response of the Prosecutor’s Office. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
In the same way, he thanked the press for the work to keep the case alive. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
Regarding the sentence, Lizarríbar argued that the court was wrong in imposing life imprisonment.
He argued that “the cause of death was not submitted to the court as required, so that the mandatory minimum can be increased.”
Referring to a technical matter, Lizárribar stated that “the jury’s instructions did not ask for a finding of death as an element of the offense.”
“During the sentencing, the court argued that there was no doubt that Anhang was dead, (but) this argument did not address the matter,” Lizarríbar said.
“There had to be a jury finding and there wasn’t, so you couldn’t increase the sentence with the court’s findings. The appellant’s sentence must be annulled and the case must be referred for a new sentencing procedure, ”he stated.
Áurea Vázquez Rijos, as well as her sister Marcia Vázquez Rijos and her ex-brother-in-law Ferrer Sosa, are serving life sentences in prisons in the United States.
They were charged with conspiracy in relation to the murder of Anhang, then Áurea Vázquez Rijos’ husband, in September 2005, in Old San Juan.