After spending 5 years in prison in Catalonia, Rodrigo Lanza relocated to Zaragoza, in part to escape from police harassment in Barcelona. Then, in December 2017, while out in a bar in the centre of Zaragoza, he was in a fight with a fascist which resulted in the death of the latter. Rodrigo and his witnesses claim that the fascist, Víctor Laínez, called him “sudaca de mierda” (a slur against Latin Americans) and attempted to attack him with a knife. In fear for his life, Rodrigo struck the fascist, who fell to the ground and died in hospital a few days later.
The press has called this the “crime of the suspenders”, claiming that the only reason Laínez was attacked was because he was allegedly wearing suspenders with the colours of the Spanish flag (the suspenders were never found). This was a very convenient ideological play given the violent response of the Spanish state against the Catalan declaration of independence only two months prior. However, the fascists themselves claim that Laínez had been a member of the Falange Española de las JONS (Spanish fascist party founded in 1934) since the 1980s and the Falange attended his funeral with red roses. In addition to the Falange’s involvement, the extreme right-wing party VOX participate as a claimant in the case against Rodrigo Lanza. Shortly after his arrest in December 2017, Rodrigo’s mother claimed she and other family members had received death threats from Nazis and feared for their lives.
The first trial in November 2019 resulted in a verdict of injuries resulting in reckless manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison. During sentencing, the judge increased the degree, leaving Rodrigo’s sentence as 5 years. All parties appealed to the Superior Court of Aragon, which sided with the prosecution, obtaining a re-trial. On the 17th of September 2020, a new jury delivered a verdict of guilty for murder with the aggravating factors of intent and ideology, and the mitigating factor of drunkenness. The second trial has been full of controversies, with one of the jurors being admonished by the judge for jury baiting against the defence. The media circus around the case probably didn’t help Rodrigo either. The prosecution is asking for 20 years and 150 000 euros compensation, while the family of the deceased and VOX are demanding 23 years and 500 000 euros.
The defence lawyer Endika Zulueta has argued that the verdict is void and should be reduced to injuries resulting in reckless manslaughter, because only 4 out of 9 jurors have established the fact that there was no fear of a knife attack, rejecting the claim of self-defence, which according to the Supreme Court guidelines would be declared a hung jury in this instance. While there was no knife found on the scene, the fact that a friend of Rodrigo shouted “careful, he’s carrying a knife” was considered enough reason for the first jury to accept that the defendant was in fear for his life. Zulueta also pleaded to the judge that the element of “intent” the prosecution was after has not been established, meaning that it cannot be considered murder and that “ideology” cannot be added as an aggravating factor during sentencing.
Rodrigo Lanza has been remanded in prison since his arrest in December 2017, so he would have been released in June 2020 had the original sentence stood. Now he is facing a much longer sentence, unless his lawyer’s submissions are accepted by the judge. Unfortunately, he has already been tried in the court of public opinion, thanks to the media coverage favouring the dead fascist and the current political climate, where right-wing politicians and commentators have positioned themselves as victims of the anti-Spanish Left and have declared squatters like Rodrigo to be a threat worse than COVID-19.
Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza
You can send Rodrigo letters of support at the following address:
Rodrigo Lanza Huidobro
Centro Penitenciario De Zuera Autovía A-23, Km 32850800, Zaragoza, Spain