June 26, 2010
Posted: 02:32 PM ET
Lima, Peru – It was back to Peru’s Castro Castro prison again, this time to see their fully-functioning courthouse on prison grounds. Luis Iglesias, the administrator for prison courtrooms, told me the reason the court building was built in the first place was because of security issues plaguing the Lima community. Prisoners had a tendency to try, and sometimes succeed at escaping from custody while being transported to Lima’s grand Palace of Justice for their court appearances. The answer was this courthouse adjoining the prison itself.
Prison officials let me trace the steps on camera to show how van der Sloot has and will continue to come to the prison courthouse for his appearances. He is led through the massive prison gates from his cell, into the back entrance of the courthouse and sits on a holding cell bench until being called.
While we were in the midst of shooting in that particular area, six defendants came through the door from their prison cells, and they were frisked inches away from me. By allowing inmates to wear their own clothes, the risk of weapons or virtually anything illegal in their pockets is a definite reality. I saw no modern security screening for inmates, what I saw was only a physical search of the inmate himself.
For members of the public entering the front door of Castro Castro’s prison courthouse there is a rather simplistic security monitoring device to walk through. Everyone who comes in must show and leave their ID with officials at the door.
We were allowed to shoot the small courtroom where van der Sloot was taken during his formal appearance before Judge Morales Cordova on June 21, 2010.
The judicial process that is going on currently with van der Sloot is the investigation phase. It is led by Judge Cordova in what is called the court of “juzcado” or court of first instance. Any proceeding during this time is private, without any cameras allowed, but we appreciated Castro Castro giving our cameras an exclusive look at this “juzcado” court room which we were told had never been shot before.
We also watched and were able to videotape a Peruvian trial that was taking place in the same courtroom they say van der Sloot’s trial will be held in. It was very modest by American standards, but their courtroom proceedings are formal, streamlined and extremely serious.
The defendant sits in the middle of the courtroom, all by himself, while his attorney sits on the right side and prosecutors on the left.
The witness sits on the far left side angled to face the attorneys and the three-judge panel. The judges listen intently as the testimony is being given and sometimes consult amongst themselves. Under Peruvian law, the three judges do not have to rule unanimously, a simple majority will convict someone of their crime.
– Jean Casarez, In Session on truTV
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