Monday, March 02, 2009

Spain: Outrage at aquittal of man who stabbed gay couple 57 times and set their bodies on fire

[UPDATE 3/4/09: A solidarity vigil will be held in New York City this coming Saturday, March 7, 2009, at 1:00 pm outside the Spanish embassy - more details here].

27 year old Isaac Ali Dani Peréz Triviño (left) was born in Spain. 32 year old Julio Anderson Luciano (right) was born in Brazil. They lived together in the Spanish province of Vigo and were planning to get married.

Both were stabbed to death by Jacobo Piñeiro Rial in their apartment in the early morning of January 13th, 2006. The bodies showed a total of 57 stab wounds, according to forensics.

After killing them, Piñeiro took a shower and cleaned himself up. He filled a suitcase with some of their belongings to make it look like a robbery and then spilled clothing all over the place. He poured alcohol over everything, including his victims' bodies, turned on the gas spigot on the stove, and set everything on fire. The local fire department said that little evidence would have survived if it wasn't for their prompt response to the 5-alarm fire.

Piñeiro (left) hardly knew the men. Testimony revealed that Piñiero had spent the previous afternoon consuming cocaine and drinking at a gay bar called Strong at which Pérez Triviñio happened to work as a bartender. When his shift ended at 4:30pm, the bartender invited Piñeiro home. They spent the afternoon together until Anderson Luciano arrived around 10:30pm with two friends.

Pérez Triviñio came out of his room to greet them while they cooked some food but went back to his room without eating. Anderson Luciano's friends left after the late dinner but Piñeiro stayed overnight.

There are no independent witnesses, but police and forensic experts say that the murder rampage began around 4:00am. Apparently, Pérez Triviñio was stabbed first but did not die. Piñeiro then stabbed Anderson Luciano twice while in the couples' room, and 22 more times as he followed his victim out of the room, into a corridor and out to the living room - where he died.

Pérez Triviñio, in the meantime, had locked himself in the room and records show that he was able to call local authorities. The call was cut short when Piñeiro was able to break back into the room and finish him off by stabbing him 35 more times.

In the living room, he tied Anderson Luciano's hands and put a blanket over his body; in the bedroom, he placed a blanket over Pérez Triviñio's head, tied a cable around it, and tethered it to a bed post. He then emptied closets and threw clothes all over the apartment, poured alcohol and set everything on fire.

Piñeiro left the building around 9:30am. He was carrying the suitcase he had filled with the men's belongings and initially asked a friend if he could hide it. When his friend declined, he went back to his hometown, Cangas, and walked into another bar. When news of the fire and double-murder flashed on the television screen, he confessed to the bartender that he'd been the one to set the place on fire, and asked him to hide the suitcase. The bartender also declined to keep it. Piñeiro was arrested a couple of days later based on leads given by the men he encountered after leaving Vigo.

Defense: On trial, Piñiero refused to testify and was not put under cross-examination. But then, in a surprise move, he agreed to make a personal statement before the jury on the last day of trial.

"I will not blame anyone, the blame is mine for who I am", he said, while acknowledging that he had killed both men.

His defense? In a statement riddled by inconsistencies, he said that he had slept in a guest bedroom, and was awakened late at night by a naked Anderson Luciano, who invited him over for sex. He says that he was 'disgusted' by the sexual advances and rejected them, only to be threatened with a knife. Piñeiro says that he 'panicked' and successfully wrestled the knife away from his assailant - and used it to 'defend' himself. He also claimed that Pérez Triviñio came to his partner's defense brandishing a second knife. What do you know! He also stripped the knife away from him and continued to 'defend' himself!

His lawyer argued that Piñeiro was overcome by an "insurmountable fear of being raped and being murdered" and that his judgment was clouded by the alcohol and cocaine he had consumed in the previous two days (forensic experts had stated earlier said the effect of the cocaine would have rubbed off long before the killings and that, once he was arrested, there were no traces of alcohol in his body which did not match up with the huge amount of alcohol that Piñeiro said he had ingested). In other words, his lawyer used the well-known 'gay panic' defense.

Verdict: The jury bought it! La Voz de Galicia says that Piñeiro almost walked out of the courtroom free. He was acquitted of murder charges, and, in the first draft of the jury's statement, he was also acquitted of 'consciously' setting the apartment on fire. It was only after beginning to read the statement in court that the judge stepped in to correct some "errors" which led Piñiero to be charged in setting up the fire. When the verdict was read, jury members covered their face, perhaps already aware of the outrage that their verdict would elicit.

He remains to be sentenced and is expected to be sent to prison for 15 to 20 years for setting the fire. If he hadn't been acquitted of the murder charges, he would have been sent to prison for up to 60 years.

Justice: Marta Pérez Triviñio (left), Isaac's mother, is heartbroken. She says that the jury's verdict is "homophobic, racist and brainless" and spoke of Julio as being almost like a second son. She broke down after the verdict, but has steadfastly demanded justice to whoever will listen.

She actually lived with Isaac and Jacobo. The night of the murders, Ms. Pérez Triviñio had gone to a scheduled overnight visit to a charity service organization. She says that she will forever blame herself for not staying home that night and feels that her son and his partner would still be alive if she hadn't left.

Facebook: Rober Bass, a gay man who lives in Vigo and was outraged by the murder acquittals, has also set up a Facebook page calling for protests in Vigo, Madrid and Barcelona this Saturday, March 7th (there is a separate Facebook page for that specific protest).

Vigo was already the scene for a small demonstration that took place on Feb. 25th after the verdict.

This is a despicable crime with an unfortunate court ruling. It might yet become Spain's very own Matthew Sheppard moment.

Spanish-language sources:
In Spanish, from Telecinco's "Rojo y Negro":

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Apparently, Pérez Triviñio was stabbed first but did not die. Piñeiro then stabbed Anderson Luciano twice while in the couples' room, and 22 more times as he followed his victim out of the room...Piñeiro was able to break back into the room and finish (Triviñio) off by stabbing him 35 more times."

I count at least 60 stab wounds here, not 57.