American missionary Sister Dorothy Stang, who worked with poor people, often landless farmers, in northern Brazil in a part of the state of Pará known for land conflicts, was assassinated on February 12, 2005. A farmer, Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, aka Bida, was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
But, as a 30-year sentence is the maximum in Brazil, which doesn’t have death penalty, legislation requires a second trial to confirm the sentence. At his second trial, Bida was found not guilty.
At the time of the second trial, and since then, Bida has been free due to a habeas corpus, which was granted pending an appeal by his defense lawyers of the first sentence.
Yesterday, February 4, an appellate court (STJ – 5º turma – 5th circuit) ordered him back to jail. The decision was not unanimous. One of the judges, Arnaldo Esteves Lima, the same judge who gave him the habeas corpus, cited the fact that technically Bida was innocent because of the decision in his second trial, and voted against sending him back to prison.
But the majority of the judges accepted another decision in December 2009 by Pará state’s Justice Court based on a lawsuit filed by government attorneys, which annulled the second trial.
The Dorothy Stang murder has become an international cause célèbre, but achieving some form of justice and closure frustrating and confusing.
To make matters worse, the man who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the crime, the person who ordered and paid for it, another landowning farmer, Regivaldo Pereira Galvão, aka Taradão (Big Pervert), has been indicted but, five years after the crime, still has not gone on trial, not even once.