MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican prosecutors announced Saturday night that they are dropping a case against a woman who was sentenced to six years in prison Killing a man who raped and assaulted him her.
In a ruling last week that sparked public outcry, a Mexican state court said that while it agreed that 23-year-old Roxana Ruiz was raped in 2021, it found her guilty of murder with “undue reliance on legitimate defenses.” found. Ruiz was also ordered to pay more than $16,000 in reparations to her attacker’s family.
Feminist groups that have supported Ruiz’s defense protested furiously, saying the ruling criminalizes survivors of sexual violence while protecting perpetrators in a country with high levels of gender-based violence and femicide. Protesters in Mexico City carried signs that read, “Defending my life is not a crime.”
Ruiz, an Indigenous woman and single mother, told reporters after the court ruling that she had received death threats over the case and that she was concerned for the safety of her family, particularly the life of her four-year-old son.
“It’s not justice,” she said. “Remember that I am the one who was sexually assaulted by this man and after he died because I defended myself … because I didn’t want to die at his hands.”
In response to the outrage, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during a morning press conference that he would try to pardon Ruiz. But her lawyers said accepting a pardon would be tantamount to admitting that Ruiz committed a crime and that she was completely innocent.
In a press release on Saturday night, prosecutors said they had reviewed the case – taking into account that Ruiz belonged to a vulnerable group – and found she was “cleared of blame”. It added that prosecutors believe they acted in self-defense.
The announcement was welcomed by Ruiz’s defense attorney Ángel Carrera, although he noted that he had not been officially informed that the charges had been dropped.
“It means they acknowledge their innocence,” Carrera told The Associated Press. “It’s a recognition that she just defended herself.”
In May 2021, Ruiz was working selling french fries in Nezahualcoyotl, one of eleven communities in the state of Mexico, a state that borders Mexico City on three sides and has continued to post warnings to women about femicide and enforced disappearances of women.
The defense said Ruiz was having a drink with a friend and a man she knew in the neighborhood. The man offered to walk her home and later asked her to stay the night since it was late and he was far from home. While sleeping in a separate bed, the man attacked and raped her.
Ruiz fought back and threatened to kill her. During the fight, Ruiz then managed to kill the man in self-defense, Carrera said.
The court said the man was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, which was enough for Ruiz to defend himself. Carrera said this claim was “completely false” and it was not determined that the attacker had passed out.
Carrera said Ruiz, in a panic, put the man’s body in a bag and dragged it onto the street, where passing police officers arrested them.
Although Ruiz told police she was raped, a forensic examination was never conducted, a crucial step in prosecuting sexual violence cases, Carrera said. Instead, an officer replied that she probably wanted to have sex with the man at first and then changed her mind, the attorney said.
According to government data, nearly half of Mexican women have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
In 2022, the Mexican government registered a total of 3,754 women – an average of 10 per day – killed, a significant increase compared to the previous year. Only a third were investigated for femicide.
Carrera said he hoped the announcement of the closure of the case would set a precedent for other gender-based violence cases to be investigated more thoroughly and treated with greater sensitivity.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Ruiz has given her permission to be identified and attends public demonstrations led by activists who support her.