Lawyers are confident a 2012 murder that shocked Jalisco will finally be classified as a “femicide” rather than “parricide,” thus bringing some closure to family members after a lengthy and traumatic legal process.
Lawyers for relatives of Imelda Josefina Virgen, who was raped and beaten to death in December 2012 while her husband looked on, say Jalisco Supreme Court judges currently hearing a final appeal have a golden opportunity to make a powerful statement about how gender violence is viewed in this state.
Back in April, a district judge sentenced Gilberto Enrique Vázquez Cortes for “up to 50 years” in prison for arranging the murder of his wife, a University of Guadalajara professor, for an alleged infidelity and to collect on a life insurance policy.
Also sentenced to the same term – including the rape charge – were David Calzada Cejas (“El Moreno”) and Sergio Fabián Sánchez Belmonte (“El Güero”). Joseline Calzada Cejas, known as “La Reina del Sur,” received 28 years, solely for “parricide.”
The gang of three were found guilty of agreeing to kill Virgen in return for around 50,000 pesos and the victim’s car. Vázquez Cortes had planned the crime to look like a carjacking; he and his wife were “attacked” by the criminals as they drove her car through Guadalajara’s industrial zone.
Much to the disappointment of human rights organizations and NGOs, throughout the long-drawn-out legal process, the judge refused to accede to lawyers’ demands that the case be tried as a femicide – a term referring to the killing of women due to their gender.
Significantly, the crime took place just five days after the Jalisco Congress had recognized femicide as a distinct crime in its penal code. Legislators had agreed with the bill’s sponsors that the new categorization would help to establish a climate of condemnation towards violence against women.
The case became a cause celebré in the state after judges were accused of refusing to bring a gender perspective to the case.
The Supreme Court is expected to uphold the prison terms within the next three months – the family also wants Calzada Cejas’ sentence increased to 42 years – and lawyers hope the judges may also amend the verdict to reflect the act of femicide and impose a maximum 50-year sentence.
Lawyers say this would not only be a victory for Virgen’s family but also for Mexican women everywhere.