Judge agrees to hear Martinelli’s new plea, but orders his lawyers to speed it up
by Eric Jackson
As the US Supreme Court was debating his first habeas corpus motion — filed last summer over US Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres’s denial of bail, but raising the whole panoply of objections to extradition in an attempt to show that Panama’s move to get its former president extradited is a nothing case — Ricardo Martinelli’s lawyers in Miami filed another habeas corpus action in Miami, this time appealing the extradition to the federal district court. The high court summarily and unanimously rejected that first habeas corpus motion a few days after debating it. In the meantime the ex-president’s legal team has also been filing papers with the US State Department, Justice Department and others. The new habeas corpus action was assigned to US District Judge Marcia G. Cooke and she might have summarily rejected the plea on the ground that those issues were already raised before the Supreme Court and rejected. However, she accepted the case and set a two-week deadline for lawyers for both sides to submit their briefs.
In the order that the Spanish news agency EFE saw and wrote about, Judge Cooke also moved to cut off all of the tangential moves and potential delays. She ordered copies of her scheduling order and Martinelli’s pleadings served upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the acting head of the Miami Federal Detention Center, Robert Wilson. They will also have to respond, if they care to do so, within the time limit that the judge set.
Ordinarily, these sorts of habeas corpus actions following upon an extradition order take a month or two to be finally resolved. Martinelli might appeal an adverse ruling by Judge Cooke, but higher courts might reflexively deny any any such motions. This case is unusual because it has already been up to the Supreme Court, not one of whose nine justices saw merit in hearing the first habeas corpus action. So Martinelli has two weeks minimum, plus time for the judge to decide, plus whatever other maneuvers Martinelli’s legal team might make, before being put on a plane back to Panama.
Meanwhile in Panama La Estrella reports that Martinelli’s legal team is exploring strategies in case he is extradited. One possibility is that he would resign from the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), which would take jurisdiction over his illegal wiretapping case from the high court and put it before the ordinary prosecutors of the Public Ministry and the lowest level penal trial court in Panama City. This would entail copious delays. Then there are reported plans to assert a claim to the Public Ministry’s Institute of Legal Medicine that the former president is ill, and would thus need to be put under hospital or home arrest rather than be held in jail pending trial.
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