(AP) An appeals court in western Mexico on Thursday overturned the acquittal of two men in the 1998 killing of an American journalist, and sentenced them to 13 years in prison.
Thursday’s unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel in Jalisco state followed a long struggle by Philip True’s widow and his newspaper, the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News, to bring his killers to justice — and another campaign, led by an American expatriate, to win an acquittal for the two men.
“The defense lawyers had distorted True’s image, and we are very happy to see that he has been revindicated,” said Jorge Ochoa, a lawyer for True’s widow, Martha.
True, 50, disappeared in early December 1998 during a 100-mile hike through the mountains in the western Mexico territory of the Huichol Indians.
A search party found his body days later inside his sleeping bag and buried in a shallow grave at the bottom of a deep ravine.
Juan Chivarra and Miguel Hernandez, two Huichol Indians, were detained after authorities discovered they had the journalist’s camera and backpack. They initially admitted killing True, but later retracted their confessions and claimed soldiers had tortured them.
Defense lawyers had claimed that True may have been drinking and simply fallen to his death. True’s family and friends said he seldom drank.