Martinelli’s latest moves don’t much impress the court
by Eric Jackson
There are inherent problems when a rich defendant blitzes the courts by way of phalanxes of lawyers filing every conceivable sort of motion. In Panamanian courts there is a likelihood that some judge somewhere, adequately bribed, will figure that all those lawyers making all those arguments must have some point on which a ruling might be credibly made. But then, Ricardo Martinelli has not been the garden variety rich defendant. He has argued so many things so flagrantly that the calculation for judge or prosecutor is likely to be that his or her reputation — a meal ticket of sorts — is likely to outlast Ricardo Martinelli’s time in the limelight.
Another big problem with the games that Martinelli has been playing is that it gets hard to keep story lines synchronized. It’s famously a problem of pathological liars. In his bid to get out of jail for his alleged medical condition, for example, one of the claims that Team Martinelli made was that he thinks he may have prostate cancer. There was no medical indication of that, nor of any condition that can’t be controlled by outpatient medication while residing in a penitentiary, so after a few days of a malingering show the high court transferred the ex-president back to El Renacer. A hearing on a bail motion was to be had in a week’s time, but Martinelli’s lawyers got the court to move that up, taking over a scheduling conference to convene a nine-member panel to hear the next round of arguments about why a guy who fled the country to avoid prosecution should get bail. That bogus claim of prostate cancer was raised in that hearing, but Martinelli said he didn’t recall anything about it.
At that hearing Martinelli also said that he’s not a flight risk because according to his interpretation of the specialty theory of extradition, the US government has promised that the only things that Panama might try and punish him for are the electronic eavesdropping, improper use of government property and theft of government property charges in the most advanced among the many criminal cases against him, the one that was the basis for Panama’s extradition request. If he fled the country, Martinelli told the magistrates, the US guarantee would be off. That is, he in effect said that the magistrates are and should be subject to the supposed dictates of a foreign power. The rhetoric about boot-licking lackeys was not in his discourse, but it may as well have been. In any case, such conditions on an extradition are not the personal rights of defendants but agreements between governments. To have any possibility of being honored by an honest court they must be explicit. The US government placed no such restrictions on Martinelli’s extradition. He just thinks that they should be implied, that a government that threw him in jail and kicked him out will be his special protector because, hey, he’s the very special Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal.
The magistrates unanimously rejected Martinelli’s bail request.
Shortly thereafter two new habeas corpus motions were filed on his behalf. One attacked the bail decision on the basis of alleged bias by magistrate Jerónimo Mejía. But of course, this was a decision of the magistrates who will act as the jury, not Mejía, who is acting as judge. Moreover, Martinelli’s mouthpiece Luis Eduardo Camacho disavowed the status of the attorney who brought that motion as part of the defense team. The other habeas corpus motion was a weird conspiracy theory naming the National Security Council and the Ministry of Government. But neither of these two entities are parties to the case at hand.
The court summarily struck down the two habeas corpus actions.
Following within hours of these setbacks, Martinelli said that he’s resigning from the Central American Parliament. His membership in that body, on account of his being a former president, is what gives the Supreme Court rather that the ordinary courts and prosecutors original jurisdiction over criminal complaints against him. So, the high court loses jurisdiction and it’s back to square one with the ordinary system, and with any luck the preventive detention order from the Supremes gets vacated before he is ordered held by one of the anti-corruption prosecutors of the Public Ministry? So Martinelli might wish, but it seems that the eavesdropping and so on case is too far along and that the high court will not give up jurisdiction at this point in the proceedings. As to other cases not so far along the high court may be divested of original jurisdiction, and some of the complaints that it had dismissed might also be revived in the devolution of those cases to the regular system.
All of this procedural mess will surely be the stuff of multiple and in many cases frivolous pleadings and hearings.