Jury Selection Starts In Police Trial
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Jury selection began Tuesday in the federal trial of 10 former policemen charged with perjury in the investigation of the slayings of two young pro- independence activists on a mountaintop in 1978.
The defendants also have been indicted in Puerto Rican commonwealth courts on murder charges in the case, but no trial date has been announced. Federal prosecutors decided to try them on perjury charges because the five-year statute of limitations on the federal civil rights laws under which the defendants originally were charged has expired.
The Popular Democratic Party made the Cerro Maravilla case a political issue, and Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon believes the issue helped him win November’s election against then-incumbent Carlos Romero Barcelo, who had defended the policemen’s actions at the time of the shootings.
Carlos Soto Arrivi, 18, and Arnaldo Dario Rosado, 24, were shot and killed on Cerro Maravilla, Puerto Rico’s highest peak, on July 25, 1978 - the 26th anniversary of the island’s commonwealth status.
Police, including the 10 defendants, claimed the two young men were shot in self-defense. They said the pair was about to sabotage government communications installations on top of the mountain.
The parents of the two men said their sons were ambushed by police.
Each policemen is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy to obstruct the investigation and with giving false statements about the case to two separate U.S. grand jury investigations.
The defendants are: Angel Perez Casillas, Jaime Quiles, William Colon, Luis Reveron, Rafael Moreno, Rafael Torres Marrero, Juan Burgos, Nelson Gonzalez, Jose Rios Polanco and Nazario Mateo.
During the opening session Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Carmen C. Vargas de Cerezo interviewed six of out of 45 prospective jurors. U.S. Attorney Daniel Lopez Romo and 10 defense attorneys will make the final selection of 12 jurors.