Two men returned to court this week to stand a fresh trial on charges of killing 16-year-old Lucía Pérez by plying her with cocaine and then raping her in 2016.
Matías Gabriel Farías and Juan Pablo Offidani were controversially acquitted of femicide and sexual abuse in 2018, sparking feminist protests around the country. The two men were only found guilty of drug dealing charges and sentenced to eight years in prison by Judges Facundo Gómez Urso, Aldo Carnevale and Pablo Viñas from the Mar del Plata Criminal Court 1. Feminist lawyers lambasted the judges for assuming that the sexual encounter had been consensual.
In 2020, a Buenos Aires Province appeals court annulled the ruling on the grounds that it was based on gender stereotypes, sending the accused back to trial.
“In the first trial, they didn’t judge the facts around Lucia’s death, but rather her life: the way that she lived as a teenager,” said Indiana Guereño, from Asociación Pensamiento Penal, Association for Penal Thinking, a critical thinking judiciary organization. “The sentence was about a moral judgment, lacking a gender perspective.”
What should be tried this time, according to Guereño, is what led to Lucía’s death and the actions of the accused, instead of blaming the victim for how she lived her life. If found guilty, the accused could receive life sentences. Fifty witnesses are expected to testify over the course of the trial, which will last for at least two weeks, in Mar del Plata Criminal Court 2.
The defendants are accused of aggravated sexual abuse and drug supply followed by death, actions the prosecutor states constitute femicide. Offidani is accused of being a secondary participant in the crimes and his involvement will be analyzed during the trial.
Feminist organizations and the prosecutors claim that this time, justice has to be brought to the family by acknowledging the responsibility that both adults had in the death of Lucía Pérez, after having sexual relations with her and providing her with drugs. The crime of femicide was created in 2012 in Argentina to punish homicides using a gender perspective.
Lucía Pérez died at Farías’s house on October 8, 2016, after being given cocaine and, the prosecution says, raped. Her story shook the nation, sparking the first women’s strike in Argentina, on October 19, organized by the Argentine feminist movement. The case made international news, with feminist solidarity marches taking place across the country and abroad.
The motto was, “if our lives are worth nothing, produce without us.”
The case’s timeline
Lucía contacted Farias through a friend, asking to buy cannabis, which Farias brought to her at the entrance of her school. On October 16, 2016, Farías contacted her asking to meet up again, and Offidani picked her up and took her to the accused’s house.
Although it is unclear what happened during the hours that she spent there, according to the autopsy, Lucia died of pulmonary oedema and congestion, with a high probability of cocaine poisoning. Her body also showed signs of sexual activity.
Garías and Offidani, along with a third suspect called Alejandro Maciel, took Lucía’s body to a health care center in Playa la Serena. According to them, she had fainted in bed after having sex, and they had taken her to the health center because she had fainted. Offidani and Farias were detained on October 9, and Maciel hid from justice but was found and detained in the nearby town of Santa Clara on October 12.
Farías and Offidani were tried in 2018 and the court acquitted them of sexual abuse and murder, finding them guilty only on the drug dealing charges, being sentenced to eight years in prison. After the first trial, Maciel was acquitted of covering up the crime.
According to the judges of the first trial, a misinterpretation of the autopsy made by the prosecutor had led to the belief that Pérez was raped and had died of her injuries. However, the judges ruled that since it was impossible to prove that there had been no consent, the accused were innocent. The ruling was highly criticized for lacking a gender perspective.
Farías and Offidani are going to be tried again, while Maciel died in 2020.