California federal judge reopens the Kiki Camarena case

The DEA agent was tortured and killed in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1984 while in pursuit of drug cartels.

U.S. District Judge John Krondstadt of the Central District of California ordered Thursday to reopen the Kiki Camarena case after 35 years. According to Judge Krondstat, there may have been errors in judging former Guadalajara police officer Raul Lopez-Alvarez. The reopening of the case comes a few days after Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal considered this possibility in a plenary session. The previous week, California prosecutor Martin Estrada filed the request to resume the trial.

Kiki Camarena was a Mexican-American who joined the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after working for several other law enforcement agencies. His casual style on the streets and his ability to work in the cartel environment earned him a good reputation. In 1980, he was offered a job in the DEA office in Guadalajara, an opportunity to work abroad and advance his career.

After four years operating in Mexico, Camarena was captured, tortured and killed while investigating the Jalisco drug cartel in 1984. The case marked the beginning of high tensions between the United States and Mexico over the war on drugs.

Fake FBI evidence

This new examination of the Kiki Camarena case will focus on one of the main defendants, former Guadalajara police officer Raúl López-Álvarez, who was sentenced to 249 years in prison after the first trial.

The reopening of the case is due to a series of irregularities in the judicial process attributed to the FBI. Evidence presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that would have been conclusive in the first incarceration of Raúl López-Álvarez may have been misinterpreted. According to a court document accessed by some media outlets, the issue centers on hair samples examined at the FBI's scientific laboratories. According to the prosecutor and the judge, it cannot be proven that the samples come from López-Álvarez.

Judge Krondstadt decided to dismiss the charges against López-Álvarez, who remains in jail without bail pending a new trial. The federal judge has 180 days to start the process again. Due to the time elapsed since the events, this will be particularly complex to carry out, especially the gathering of witnesses and participants from the first trial. In addition to a review of the laboratory evidence, the focus will also return to the statements of several DEA agents.

The Kiki Camarena case returns a few years after the second plot of Narcos, the famous Netflix series, aired. Actor Michael Peña played this historical character of the drug war, accompanied by Diego Luna, Ténoch Huerta and an accomplished cast of Hispanic actors.