Nicaragua appeals acquittal of U.S. man

/ Source: The Associated Press

Nicaraguan prosecutors on Wednesday filed an appeal to the country's Supreme Court to overturn the acquittal of a U.S. man on charges of killing his Nicaraguan girlfriend, blocking efforts to win his release.

Eric Volz, 28, of Nashville, Tenn., will continue to be held under custody until the appeals process is exhausted, said prosecutor Isolda Ibarra.

Nicaraguan authorities avoided releasing Volz following a ruling by an appeals court on Monday to overturn his conviction and 30-year prison sentence in the death of Doris Ivania Jimenez, 25. The case has struck an emotional chord in Nicaragua, given the brutality of the crime.

"Today we presented the appeal, and the law is clear: that the release is suspended until the high court rules on the case," Ibarra said.

Ibarra said there is no time limit for the Supreme Court to act on the case. She argued that the lower court that threw out Volz's conviction had violated judicial norms by "rejecting witness testimony."

Volz and a Nicaraguan man, Julio Martin Chamorro, were sentenced in February for the death of Jimenez, who was found raped and strangled in November 2006 in a clothing store she owned in Rivas, 55 miles south of Managua. The appeals court upheld Chamorro's conviction.

Volz has proclaimed his innocence from the beginning, saying he was in Managua, two hours away from Rivas, when the crime occurred. At that time, Volz had lived for two years in Nicaragua, where he founded a bilingual magazine called "El Puente," or "The Bridge." He also worked as a real estate broker.

His mother seeks his releases
Prior to Wednesday's announcement, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey had told reporters that the U.S. officials "want to see him (Volz) be able to depart the country and return to his family."

Volz's mother, Maggie Anthony, arrived in Nicaragua on Wednesday to press for the release of her son, who is being held under guard at a hospital for treatment of kidney stones.

"What I am asking the authorities is that, according to the court's ruling, my son should be freed," Anthony told local reporters through an interpreter.

Volz's lawyer, Fabbrith Gomez, accused officials of "a big delaying tactic" to keep Volz from being freed before prosecutors could file the appeal.

Nicaraguan officials have openly criticized the appeals court decision to overturn Volz's conviction. The head of the office of the Attorney General for the Promotion of Human Rights, Omar Cabezas, called the ruling "monstrous, repugnant."

Mayra Sirias, coordinator of Nicaragua's Network of Women Against Violence, condemned Volz's acquittal as "the product of a corrupt judicial system that let a killer and rapist go free."