Florence Cassez was convicted of kidnapping and other crimes. The strongest evidence against her was the testimony of the three victims, none of whom could see the faces of their captors.
Three years ago, morning news programs here broadcast the arrest of a Frenchwoman and her Mexican boyfriend in a police raid that rescued three kidnapping victims from the ranch the couple shared.
The woman, Florence Cassez, was convicted of kidnapping and other crimes and was eventually sentenced to 60 years in jail. Case closed, it would seem.
But through it all, Ms. Cassez, 34, has maintained her innocence. Her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, who confessed, said she knew nothing. And the television images of police officers storming the ranch? The raid turned out to have been staged the day after the couple was arrested and the hostages released.
Ms. Cassez’s case has become ensnared in Mexicans’ trauma over kidnapping, a crime that has become emblematic of the country’s wave of insecurity. The incompetence of the police and prosecutors, corruption and negligence mean that very few crimes are solved. The paradox is that when they are said to be solved, public opinion quickly hardens against the suspects — no matter how imperfect the case.
The incompetence of police? Seems a sweeping assertion. But ...
“In a general climate of impunity, society becomes very conservative,” said Guillermo Zepeda, a security expert at the Center of Research for Development, a Mexico City policy group. “They want the few cases that are resolved to be exemplary.”
In fewer than 2 percent of crimes does a suspect ever appear before a judge, Mr. Zepeda said. In large part that is because Mexicans have so little faith in any aspect of the criminal justice system that only 12 percent of crimes are ever reported.