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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Federal Supreme Court (STF) voted on the possible revision of up to twelve of its sentences in the mensalão vote-buying case. The judgment ended in a five to five tie, leaving the final decision up to Justice Celso de Mello, dean of the court, who will only cast his vote next Wednesday, September 18th.

Mensalão Case Appeal Decision Tied, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Thursday afternoon ended in a cliffhanger for those awaiting a decision on whether to retrial twelve of those condemned in the mensalão trial last year, photo by José Cruz/ABr.

Justice Marco Aurélio was the last to cast his vote whether to allow or not an “appeals of the appeals,” which would result in a retrial for the mensalão verdicts that received at least four votes of absolution in their original judgment in 2012. Aurélio voted against the retrial, turning five in favor, four against into a tie.

Among those that voted against the revocation of the verdicts was also Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, a key figure in the mensalão trials.

Justice Marco Aurélio explained his decision against the appeals. According to Agência Brasil, voting to accept the new appeals would cause legal uncertainty and would paramount to “changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

The decision in favor or against the “embargo infrigente” – known in legal lingo as a motion to reverse a decision filed by a number of those convicted in the mensalão trial – mainly centered around the question if a law from 1990, which does not mention the possibility of an appeal, overrules the older internal rules of the court.

The rules of the country’s highest court allow for appeals in decisions where at least four Justices gave those condemned a favorable vote. If the court decides in favor of a possible retrial, defense lawyers have fifteen days after publication of the judgment to appeal and a new Justice will be appointed to lead the new trial.

Mensalão Case Appeal Decision Tied, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
“Away corrupt ones” reads a sign held by protesters outside the STF yesterday, photo by José Cruz/ABr.

Among those that can have their judgments retried and could see their sentences reversed, are some of the most famous mensalão convicts, such as former President Lula Chief of Staff José Dirceu, operator of the scandal Marcos Valério, former PT President José Genoino and PT Treasurer Delúbio Soares.

Dirceu, for one, can appeal his conviction in the case of conspiracy and if successful, his sentence could be reduced by almost three years and its regime changed from closed to half-open. However, he cannot appeal against his conviction in the case of corruption.

Some penalties, if reduced to less than two years in an appeal, would also surpass time limitations. “[Surpassing] time limitations is a possibility because, if the penalty is up to two years, the limitation period is four years. Thus, if the penalties for conspiracy were reduced, they would have surpassed the limitations even if the defendants were not acquitted,” Pierpaolo Bottini, penal law professor at USP, explained in O Globo.

Outside the court in Brasília the voting was accompanied by demonstrators, who protested against the revocation of the judgments.

Last week, three of 25 sentences were already changed on terms of length and kind of prison terms.

The mensalão scandal revealed a voting for money scheme within the Workers’ Party and was brought to light in 2007. After a long deliberation, the STF gave its final verdict at the end of 2012. Of the 37 accused, 25 were judged guilty and received penalties up to forty years in prison. However, all of them have yet to start serving time in prison.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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