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Brazil officer found innocent in American's death

 Frances Martin, mother of the late Joseph Martin, attends the trial of a police officer who says he killed her son in self defense in Rio de Janeiro,...

Brazil American Killed

Frances Martin, mother of the late Joseph Martin, attends the trial of a police officer who says he killed her son in self defense in Rio de Janeiro,...

A Brazilian police officer was found innocent in the 2007 shooting death of a Massachusetts man on Wednesday, in a case that has drawn the attention of the U.S. Congress and human rights activists.
A jury acquitted Joao Vicente Oliveira early Wednesday after the nine-hour trial. Prosecutor Viviane Tavares Henrique She said she would appeal the decision.
"I'm not surprised, but I'm disappointed," said Elizabeth Martin, the aunt of Joseph Martin, the man who died. "We had been cautioned by human rights experts on Brazil that this would be the likely outcome."
Joseph Martin, from Worcester, Massachusetts, was celebrating his 30th birthday in one of Rio's bar districts when Oliveira detained a boy who had stolen the purse of one of Martin's friends.
"Martin then started asking the kid why he had stolen the purse," Henrique said. "Oliveira got annoyed when Martin intervened and the kid ran away. In the ensuing argument, he shot and killed the American."
Oliveira's defense argued that Martin "verbally and physically threatened the defendant before the shots were fired," according to a statement issued by the court that heard the case.
The defense said Oliveira "fired in the air and into the ground in an effort to contain the victim" before firing directly at Martin.
Henrique said before the trial that witnesses said Martin _ whose grandfather was a police officer for 30 years _ "never went after the police officer's gun or in any way threatened him." She declined to comment in detail on the case after the verdict because she is preparing an appeal.
Calls to the defense attorney were not immediately returned. A spokesman with the police union said it had no immediate comment.
Edilene Maria Francisco of the Rio-based Communities Against Violence group said her organization had backed the Martin family because it saw the case as an example of out-of-control police shootings in the city.
Human Rights Watch reported last year that Rio police killed one person for every 23 people they arrested in 2008 and that in 2007, the killings reached a high of 1,330.
Michael Mershon, a spokesman for U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, who represents Martin's district in Massachusetts and is co-chair of the House's human rights commission, said that a hearing would be scheduled "as soon as possible" on the issue of police killings in Brazil.
Officials in Rio, as part of their winning bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, promised to improve security in the city _ but the methods used to do so have been called too brutal by critics.
"They said they're going to put more police on the street for the Olympics," said Elizabeth Martin. "But perversely I think that means the murder rate will actually go up."

Updated : 2021-10-22 22:35 GMT+08:00