Pro Bono Clients Granted CVRA Status by D.C. District Court

On March 14, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted victim status and rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA) to the family of murdered Colombian anti-cocaine activist Julio Eustacio Henríquez Santamaria. A WSGR pro bono team represented the family in the matter.

The district court ruling affords the Henríquez family, among other things, the right to speak and appear at the May 16, 2016, sentencing of Hernán Giraldo-Serna, the leader of Autodefensa Unidas de Colombia, a narco-terrorist paramilitary organization. Giraldo-Serna ordered the murder of Julio Henríquez after Henríquez encouraged local farmers to resist cultivating coca (a precursor to cocaine) in areas controlled by Giraldo-Serna.

The latest ruling follows an October 16, 2015, ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that granted in part WSGR's petition for a writ of mandamus, after the district court had initially declined to grant CVRA status. In reversing course and granting CVRA status—a very rarely obtained form of relief—the district court rejected arguments by both the government and Giraldo-Serna's counsel that WSGR had not established a sufficient evidentiary link between the murder and the cocaine conspiracy for which Giraldo-Serna was convicted.

The district court's ruling represents a landmark in victims' rights law that follows more than six years of litigation by WSGR and Professor Roxanna Altholz of the UC Berkeley School of Law International Human Rights Law Clinic.

The WSGR pro bono team that represented the Henríquez family included Leo Cunningham, Luke Liss, Melissa Mannino, Whitney Costin, Anne Veldhuis, Stacy Love, and Yolanda Gutierrez-Almazan. Former WSGR associates Lee-Anne Mulholland, Nema Milaninia, Charlene Koski, and Jasmine Owens also assisted with the matter.

Please click here for additional background on the case.