The judicial system in Costa Rica is negligent, partial, complacent and lazy,” said Carla Stefaniak’s father, Carlos Caicedo, in a criticism of the 16-year sentence against the killer of his daughter.

Carlos Caicedo (left) gave a press conference on Wednesday, with his lawyer, Joseph Rivera, speaking out on the criminal trial of his daughter’s murder in Costa Rica. Photo: Yeryis Salas / La Nacion

Caicedo gave the statements on Wednesday, two days after the Pavas Criminal Court sentenced Bismark Espinoza Martínez, a guard who stabbed the Venezuelan-American tourist while staying at the hotel he worked at.

The evidence presented to the three-judge panel occurred between the night of November and the morning of November 28, 2018, at the Hotel Le Mas Provence, in San Antonio de Escazú.

Stefaniak’s body was found on December 3, 2018, in a wooded area, a short distance from where the room she was killed in.

Carla’s father claimed that the murder should be classified as “homicidio calificado” (first degree murder), where the maximum sentence is 35 years in prison.

Espinoza Martínez was convicted of the lesser charge “homicidio simple” (manslaughter) that is punishable with a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison.

“For the judges who are satisfied with the homicidio simple and sentence him (the killer) to 16 years, therefore life is worth nothing, but not only that, they do not value that there is a 36-year-old woman with many years still ahead of her, for the judges, my daughter’s life is worthless,” said Caicedo.

Caicedo also criticized the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) and the Public Ministry (Prosecutor’s Office) for their action in the investigation.

According to him, the OIJ was satisfied “focusing on room 8 where Carla was, and room 7, where Bismark lived, as we all know there are ten villas including the owners’ home, more negligent impossible.”

Caicedo has been vocal that, in his opinion, the guard did not act alone in the murder of his daughter.

He also claimed that the OIJ did not confirm that the Le Mas Provence security cameras were not working, as the owners claimed.

He also criticized the hotel owners for allowing a security guard to also have maintenance and cleaning roles.

Joseph Rivera, the lawyer representing Caicedo, said that they will appeal (when the written sentences is issued on March 2) the ruling of judges Eduardo Rojas, Simón Guillén and José Alberto Vargas.

Carla’s family is looking for a prison sentence of 50 years for Espinoza and ¢30 million colones for moral damage against the guard and the hotel owners.

In their decision, the court explained that it could not, based on the evidence, sustain a higher charge (with a higher sentence) and rejected Caicedo’s statement that he depended economically on Stefaniak.

Justice in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican criminal law system follows the European-Continental tradition. There is no jury system in Costa Rica. A trial is presided over by a single judge or by a three-judge panel, depending on the potential punishment arising from the charges.

The judge or panel of judges makes the sentencing determination based on guidelines set by the Código Penal de Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s criminal proceedings (Código Procesal Penal) includes a ‘civil’ phase that allows the victim, their heirs or beneficiary a claim against the authors of the punishable act and participants in it and, where appropriate, against the civilly responsible party.