Portuguese magazine gives Brazilian perspective on Claudia Hoerig murder trial
By Ed Runyan
A translation of the Portuguese-language Brazilian magazine Consultor Juridico provides a Brazilian perspective on the Claudia Hoerig trial that began Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
The magazine, headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, reported online that jury selection got underway and explained the process, then gave some background on the case.
The Vindicator is bringing the article to its readers thanks to internet technology that translates Portuguese to English. The article says jury selection would involve “a few dozen randomly summoned citizens to serve as jurors.”
It says the judge “begins by asking the [potential jurors] who has heard about the ‘Claudia Hoerig’ case. Whoever lifts the hand will automatically be excluded from the list,” the article says.
That explanation, as described in Vindicator coverage of the case, misses some subtleties of jury selection. Jurors are not automatically excluded because of their knowledge of the case.
Judge Andrew Logan and the attorneys in the case told potential jurors throughout the morning’s jury selection that having read news accounts of the case did not disqualify them from serving on the jury – as long as they indicated they could “put aside” that information and decide Hoerig’s guilt or innocence based purely on evidence from the witness stand.
The magazine article continued, “finding 12 citizens who have never heard of the case will be a difficult task. The county has only 210,000 inhabitants, who from March 2007 to January of 2018 followed” news of the attempt to bring Hoerig back to the United States from Brazil.
“This was a daily novel, in which prosecutor Dennis Watkins became the main protagonist – and a kind of hero – for never giving up, with the help of federal authorities, to find Claudia and for [the] fight to get [her] to the U.S. in order to make her ‘pay for her crime.’
“The first defense considered for Claudia was that of the ‘battered woman syndrome,’” the article says. “The judge even authorized the hiring of a specialist, at the expense of the state, to explain this syndrome to jurors. But for some reason, which was not disclosed because the judge issued a silent order on the case, public defenders have given up on this strategy.
“In trying to justify the theory of the battered woman’s syndrome, Claudia said she killed her husband in a fit of rage because he tortured her mentally and threatened her often, according to the local newspaper The Vindicator.
“Claudia’s statements further angered the population of Trumbull County. In a country that cultivates heroes by the hundreds, Karl Hoerig, a former Air Force major, was seen as a local hero for his military missions.
“The scenery does not look good to Claudia. It is speculated – without confirmation because of the order of silence – that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Claudia.”
Warren attorney Jeff Goodman, who is not involved in the Hoerig case but has experience as a defense attorney in Trumbull County, told The Vindicator last week that Hoerig’s aggravated murder charge carries a possible penalty of life in prison without the chance of parole.
It also could result in life in prison with parole eligibility after 20, 25 or 30 years in prison. The death penalty is not a possibility, Goodman said.
The Brazilian magazine reported Saturday it believed Hoerig’s return to the United States was contingent on Hoerig getting no more than 30 years in prison.
“A death sentence – or even life imprisonment – may ... disregard a condition that the [Brazilian] Federal Supreme Court has placed in order to agree to Claudia’s extradition to the United States: not to apply penalties that are not accepted in Brazil – such as the death penalty or life imprisonment,” the magazine article says.
The magazine reported in March 2017 after the Brazilian Supreme Court stripped Hoerig of her Brazilian citizenship that the court had “established that the United States government should make a commitment not to apply penalties that are not allowed in Brazil, such as the death penalty or life imprisonment. In addition, her sentence cannot exceed the maximum time allowed by the [Brazilian] Penal Code of 30 years in prison.”
The article said Hoerig’s extradition to the United States would be the first extradition of a Brazilian citizen in Brazil’s history.