Jury Finds Debra Ann Ridgley Innocent in Murder of Toni Grossi Abrams in Panama
Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 10:57 AM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
Didier Osorio - Former Member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) (FARC), and former boyfriend of Debra Ann Ridgley's granddaughter, has confessed to the murder. In his statement he says Debra Ann Ridgley "had nothing to do" with the murder.
Three Suspects: A total of three people were implicated in this case. American woman Debra Ann Ridgley was arrested shortly after the murder and who has been held in the Women's Prison in Panama City for the past 55 months, has now been found innocent of the charges filed against her. Another primary suspect is Colombian Didier Osorio, who is now in prison in Colombia and who has since confessed to the murder. The third participant was Colombian Camilo Castro who remains a fugitive from justice in Colombia.
Ridgley Maintained Her Innocence Throughout: I went to visit Debra Ann Ridgley after she was arrested, and I spoke to her both in the holding cells of the PTJ (now DIJ) in Ancon, as well as in Panama's Women's prison in Panama City, and was able to interview her at length. Debra Ann Ridgley spent a total of two years and seven months in prison awaiting trial. During that entire time she proclaimed and maintained her innocence, blaming Didier Osorio for having murdered Toni Grossi Abrams, and saying the two Colombians forced her to go along with the entire thing. She said she was in fear for her life the entire time, and that while she and Toni Grossi Abrams had a verbal altercation that night in Grossi's apartment, she said that "when I left to go upstairs, Didier and Toni were fighting but Toni was still alive." The jury decided the evidence as presented by the prosecution was insufficient to determine Debra Ann Ridgley should be found guilty as the "author" of the murder - meaning the person who actually killed Grossi.
Eight Jurors: A panel of eight jurors, seven women and one man, decided Ridgley's fate in the case. Panama's Fourth Superior Prosecutor, Franklin Amaya, presented the government's case to the court. Amaya was the original prosecutor who was responsible for the investigation when it was first opened. He was then assigned to Chiriqui where he served as a Superior Prosecutor for about two years, and he has just recently returned to his position to try this case. Ridgley's defense was presented by Panamanian attorney Donatilo Ballesteros.
Family and Friends In Attendance: There were family and friends representing both Debra Ann Ridgley and Toni Grossi Abrams in the courtroom to witness the trial. There were also several other people in the room who had some kind of connection to the case, but I didn't know who those people were. Many of them were following the proceedings intently, and even passing notes back and forth regarding the testimony as it unfolded.
The Trial: The trial started yesterday afternoon and if it went all night long. According to a relative of Toni Grossi Abrams early this morning the judge in the case gave everyone an hour break for breakfast, and they resumed again at 7:30 am. I sat through the first three hours of the trial, and in that time I heard the opening statements of both the prosecutor and the defense, and heard the testimony of the first witness, the taxi driver who drove the two Colombians and Debra Ann Ridgley out to Rio Abajo to dump Toni Grossi Abrams' body. In the trial they go through a very tedious process of first reading the official statements of the witness who has been called to testify. Then, the prosecutor makes the witness certify his signature to ensure those are in fact his statements and his signature on the documents. Then, the prosecutor walked the witness through his entire statement in order to cover each and every detail in the statements as well as to draw out and highlight any important or pertinent information or details. Once the prosecutor is done then it's the defense's turn, and of course the defense tries to muck up the witness, draw out some confusion, and muddy the waters. But what was new and interesting to me - the members of the jury were allowed to ask their own questions directly to the witness in order to have anything further clarified and to erase any doubts regarding the testimony.
After three hours the first witness was still on the stand and I had to attend to other commitments. They went at it all night long, and they didn't stop until all of the material had been presented and the jury reached a verdict. Murder trials by jury are very different here than in the United States, that's for sure. When the trial was finally over I received a telephone call reporting the results, at 11:30 am this morning.
The Fate of Debra Ann Ridgley: So, what happens to Debra Ann Ridgley now? I don't know if she will be immediately set free, but I assume so. I don't even know if it's possible to appeal the results of a jury trial to the Supreme Court - and I guess the prosecution might appeal but only if there was some kind of obvious procedural oversight or whatever. Barring that, Debra Ann Ridgley might be back in the arms of her friends and family members in Pennsylvania within days, if not hours. The friends and family members of Toni Grossi Abrams are left to wonder if justice has indeed been served.
Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.