October 2, 2012

Good Tues. Okay day shaping up here after a nice one yesterday. Temp started out at 31 degrees.

The other film we watched this weekend was a documentary called They Killed Sister Dorothy, about the murder of 73-year-old Dorothy Stang, a nun, in the Amazon frontier state of Para, Brazil. Sister Dorothy had lived in Brazil for over 30 years and held dual citizenship. She worked with the poor and advocated implementation of a federal program already on the books to give poor people homestead land on plots designed to encompass 80 percent wilderness in a 100 hectare area. The loggers and cattle ranchers were naturally opposed to this. Brazilian loggers cut 23 square miles of Amazon forest a day. The forested area is huge, but cannot sustain that rate of cutting. There are many reasons to want to see that rate of deforestation slowed, but the Brazilian government has had difficulty regulating and policing such a vast area (Para is nearly twice the size of Texas and has few roads), and in practice loggers and ranchers and squatters do pretty much as they please. Anyway, two big ranchers paid two guys $25 each kill Sister Dorothy and gave them the gun to do it. They did. They walked up to her and shot her point blank. They were caught. They were tried and convicted and sent to prison for many years.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors wanted to nab the ranchers behind the plot. They put one rancher in prison for about two years but he was eventually released. The other rancher was arrested and then released soon afterward. One of the murderers planned to testify against the bosses, but his jailers put him in a cell with an inmate armed with a broomstick who beat him severely two days before the trial. One murderer gave 10 depositions, each contradicting the others, then lied in court, probably because he feared for his life. The most interesting part of the film is 30 or 40 minutes of the various trials as well as interviews with prosecutors and lawyers for the defense. The defense team was confident of victory and told the jury in one rancher’s trial that Sister Dorothy was an FBI agent seeking to impose North American law on Brazil. They said she had committed several murders. The judge listened to this evidence-free smearing of the victim without comment. The jury found the rancher guilty, but he was released after a second trial. This look at the Brazilian law process is fascinating and pretty repellant. I don’t know much about lawyering in Brazil, but it appears pretty messed up, at least in places where powerful interests control the process. Fascinating and slightly awful. From Netflix.

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