Joana case reaches Supreme Court

LAWYERS FOR Leonor and João Cipriano, the sister and brother convicted of abusing, murdering and concealing the body of eight-year-old Joana, are appealing to the Supreme Court to absolve the siblings or, at the very least, to hold a re-trial. A decision is due to be announced on March 23.

Joana lived with her mother, Leonor, in the village of Figueira, Portimão, and disappeared on the night of September 12, 2004. This is the only fact that João Grade, lawyer for Leonor, said had been proven by the court. “So much was lacking in this case; not only the body of the child, but also evidence for condemnation,” he said. “There were many contradictions, jurors who were influenced and insufficient proof – these are the reasons that have led me to take this step.”

Meanwhile, the Public Ministry, responsible for the public prosecution, is asking for the pair’s prison sentences to be increased to 25 years.

In comments to the media, João Grade said that there were two types of jurors at the Portimão Courthouse: “some unaware of the law and rules concerning the presentation of proof, and others in an uncomfortable situation who only wanted the trial to finish as soon as possible.” He also pointed out: “When they are not absolutely certain, they must acquit.”

The original trial lasted 20 hours and concluded on November 11, 2005. Three judges and four jurors condemned Leonor and João Cipriano to 20 years and four months, and 19 years and two months imprisonment, respectively.

One of the arguments of the defence lawyers being put to the Supreme Court of Justice is the fact that “the defendants do not have sufficient intellectual capacity to deal with the complex details relating to the charges of which they were accused”.