Judge orders immediate release of one of those convicted of the 1989 Trujillo Alto massacre

Senior Federal District Judge Francisco Besosa ordered today, Friday, the immediate release of Antonio Ramos Cruzone of the two convicted of the Trujillo Alto massacre perpetrated in 1989, in the middle of a case of habeas corpus that he Justice Department Local estimates could cost the State at least $130,000.

In 2020, Ramos Cruz filed – without legal representation – before the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico an appeal for habeas corpusthrough which a party can request an investigation when a person is illegally deprived of their liberty.

After an extensive process of requests for extensions and the presentation of various amendments, Judge Besosa ordered, on August 25, the release of Ramos Cruz. The order was given after Justice reported that it did not have an exact date to comply with a directive to submit to the court the translation of the transcripts of the 10-day trial that culminated, in 1992, with the conviction of Ramos Cruz and Juan Carlos Melendez Serrano to 297 years in jail.

Juan Carlos Melendez and Antonio Ramos Cruz (left), convicted of the murder of Haydee Maymi and her two children on June 25, 1989. (Archive)

Regarding the requirement, the auxiliary secretary of Civil Justice, Susana Penagaricano Brownhe specified The new day that the State has spent –to date– at least $20,000 in the translation of various documents and that the estimated cost of the translation of the judgment amounts to $110,000.

That estimate does not take into account an order by Besosa issued last Friday to include the translation of the opening statements and closing arguments.

“Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction of the United States and the Boston First Circuit – to which Puerto Rico belongs – which is at a disadvantage because state, criminal or civil procedures are in Spanish. Therefore, it is the only jurisdiction that has the burden of submitting translations into English “that cost a lot of money,” Penagaricano Brown commented.

Yesterday, Thursday, Justice submitted a motion for relief of jurisdiction through the Attorney General so that the First Circuit of Appeals of Boston could paralyze the order that would release Ramos Cruz. She also presented an appeal about Judge Besosa’s decision to “condition the release of Mr. Ramos Cruz to English translations of some transcripts,” explained the Justice official.

“If (the motion) is denied, It has nothing to do with the merits of our appeal now, which is solely for the purpose of reviewing Besosa’s order, who conditioned the release of Ramos Cruz to some translations, and we understand that this is an abuse of discretion.” he elaborated by telephone.

Antonio Ramos Cruz in a file photo from August 7, 1991.
Antonio Ramos Cruz in a file photo from August 7, 1991. (Archive)

The First Circuit yesterday denied the request to stay the order while the appeal is resolved. However, he welcomed the proposal to hear the case expeditiously on the dates proposed by the Government, which would mean that the case is submitted for September 29. Since the court certified the case as expedited, the decision may be at any time in October.

On Friday, Besosa gave the Government seven days – until September 1 – to decide whether he would file an appeal. With Boston’s decision, Penagaricano Brown indicated yesterday that it was not clear if the judge would order the release of Ramos Cruz today, Friday, or if he would decide not to release him while the pending appeal before the First Circuit is heard.

The order to translate the trial transcripts was issued on February 13 of this year. On February 28, Justice requested reconsideration, but Besosa did not rule – against him – until June 16.

Justice submitted the transcripts in Spanish on July 31, as ordered, and requested permission to submit them in English. However, he could not offer a date on which he would submit the translations, because, according to Penagaricano Brown, this is an expensive process that requires the authorization of multiple agencies, because it is unbudgeted money.

The official estimated that the translation process – once started – can take between 90 and 120 days.

Antonio Ramos Cruz (right) and Juan Carlos Melendez Serrano were sentenced to 297 years in prison in 1992.
Antonio Ramos Cruz (right) and Juan Carlos Melendez Serrano were sentenced to 297 years in prison in 1992. (Archive)

Ramos Cruz is released under certain conditions –including the use of an electronic shackle– until the appeal of habeas corpus end on its merits. He will be in the custody of a third party, which in this case is his wife.

On June 25, 1989, they were murdered Haydee Maymi and his sons Eduardo5 years and Melissaof 3. The mother’s body was found in a bathtub, while the bodies of the minors were found in the fridge and refrigerator of the residence.

Ramos Cruz and Melendez Serrano were sentenced to 297 years in prison in 1992.

In 2017, both convicts were released after the then judge Berthaida Seijo Ortiz, of the Carolina Court of First Instance, decided to grant them a new trial, after determining that new DNA evidence was found in the case that was not available during the prosecution and trial process. In 2019, the Court of Appeals overturned the resolution. The case did not prosper in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.

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