Valério Luiz Filho, son of murdered journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira and a lawyer who was appeared in court in 2022 as an assistant to the prosecution in his father’s case, says the decision to uphold the conviction of four men for killing his father was a ‘historic day’ in the fight to end impunity for crimes. (Photo: O Popular)
Valério Luiz Filho, son of murdered journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira and a lawyer who appeared in court in 2022 as an assistant to the prosecution in his father’s case, says the decision to uphold the conviction of four men for killing his father was a ‘historic day’ in the fight to end impunity for crimes. (Photo: O Popular)

Brazilian court upholds conviction of killers of journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira

UPDATE:  On May 21, the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ) denied a habeas corpus request made by the defense of Maurício Borges Sampaio, one of the defendants, and upheld the conviction of four of the men accused of murdering journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira. 

São Paulo, April 26, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed a Brazilian court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold the conviction of four men for the 2012 murder of journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira.

Oliveira was shot dead by an unidentified gunman on a motorcycle while leaving his offices at Rádio Jornal 820 AM, where he hosted a sports program in Goiânia, the capital of the central Brazilian state of Goiás. Five men were charged with Oliveira’s murder in 2013 but it took almost a decade for the case to reach trial.

In 2022, the state court jury found the fifth not guilty. Maurício Borges Sampaio, the former president of football club Atlético Goianiense, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for masterminding the killing. Sampaio was accused of ordering the killing in retaliation for Oliveira’s critical reporting.

Ademá Figuerêdo Aguiar Filho was given a 16-year sentence and Marcus Vinicius Pereira Xavier and Urbano de Carvalho Malta received 14-year sentences for participating in planning and carrying out the crime.

The four men were not jailed because their attorneys appealed their convictions.

On February 29, 2024, Daniela Teixeira of the Superior Court of Justice annulled the convictions on the grounds that Xavier’s 2015 hearing took place without the other defendants or their attorneys being present.

On April 12, Teixeira reversed her decision, following an appeal by the prosecution, which argued that Xavier’s hearing was not used as evidence by the jury.

On April 23, the Goiás state court unanimously confirmed the 2022 convictions.

Sampaio, Aguiar Filho, Xavier, and Malta will remain free as their lawyers plan to appeal, according to news reports.

“The decision by the state court of Goiás to uphold the conviction of four men for the murder of sports reporter Valério Luiz de Oliveira is a victory not only for his family but for everyone working to end impunity for the killing of journalists in Brazil and worldwide,” CPJ Latin America Program Coordinator Cristina Zahar said on Friday.

“To ensure genuine justice, the next step must be the courts to ensure that Oliveira’s killers serve their full prison sentences so that Oliveira’s family can finally put this painful case behind them.”

Ricardo Naves, the attorney for Sampaio, Malta, and Aguiar Filho, told CPJ via messaging app that he would appeal to the state court requesting a review of aspects of the decision. If that did not succeed, he would file a special appeal to the STJ and an extraordinary appeal to Brazil’s Superior Federal Court, he said.

Valério Luiz Filho, Oliveira’s son and a lawyer who was an assistant to the prosecution in his father’s case,  told CPJ that the prosecution planned to ask the court to imprison Sampaio and Aguiar Filho immediately as Article 492 of the criminal procedure code says anyone sentenced by a jury to serve 15 years or more must be sent to prison immediately.

Historic day

The court’s April 23 ruling marked a ”historic day” in the fight to end impunity for crimes against journalists, said Valério Luiz Filho.

“When this happens with someone who has power and fortune, which is not common in Goiás, nor in Brazil, it is considered an important achievement,” he told CPJ in a reference to Sampaio.

Valério Luiz Filho, who was a law student at the time of the murder, previously told CPJ that he decided to help prosecute the case after seeing his father’s body at the crime scene.

“I realized that I had to do it myself, that I had to make an extra effort for the case to go forward,” he said, adding that his grandfather, Manoel de Oliveira, who was also a sports journalist, kept Oliveira’s case in the news by being a tireless spokesman for the case until his death in 2020.

“Keeping the trial in the open forced the authorities to do their job,” Valério Luiz Filho said. Brazil was 10th on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries where journalists are regularly murdered in retaliation for their work and their killers go free.

CPJ’s text message to Xavier’s attorney, Rogério Rodrigues de Paula, requesting comment did not receive any reply.

Editor’s note: The date in the update was corrected.