Two men sentenced to 20 years each for murder of U.S. journalist Philip True

New York, April 29, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the ruling by a Mexican appeals court sentencing the two men accused of murdering U.S. journalist Philip True in December 1998 to 20 years in prison.

On Tuesday, April 27, a three-judge panel of the Jalisco State Supreme Court convicted two Huichol Indians, Juan Chivarra de la Cruz and his brother-in-law Miguel Hernández de la Cruz, of murdering San Antonio Express-News correspondent Philip True. The men were sentenced to 20 years in prison each and ordered to pay 117,315 Mexican pesos (U$10,000) in damages, Jorge Ochoa, the lawyer of True’s widow, Martha True, told CPJ.

The ruling, issued by judges Celso Rodríguez González, Gustavo Flores Martínez, and Guillermo Valdez Angulo, also ordered the capture of the two men, who are now free on bond and are believed to be living in the area of Sierra Madre.

Chivarra and Hernández can file an appeal (recurso de amparo), but Ochoa told CPJ he doubts they will.

True, the San Antonio Express-News Mexico City bureau chief, was killed in December 1998 while working on a story about Huichol Indians, an indigenous population that lives in a mountainous area stretching across Jalisco, Nayarit, and Durango states.

Police arrested Chivarra and Hernández shortly after the murder, but a municipal judge released them after they were acquitted in August 2001. In May 2002, a three-judge appeals panel sentenced the two men to 13 years in prison each in a ruling that overturned the men’s acquittals.

In February 2003, a federal court overturned the 13-year sentences on procedural grounds. In November 2003, both the private investigator who worked to win the release of the men and the U.S. citizen who funded portions of their defense said Chivarra and Hernández had privately confessed to killing True and should be brought to justice.