Live blog: Brazil’s top court nixes ex-President Lula’s last-ditch petition

By José Cruzr/Agência Brasil

Vote Tally


In favor




Votes left to go

11:29 p.m. EDT

Lúcia breaks the tie, and da Silva’s petition is denied.

11:24 p.m. EDT

Lúcia says “presumption of innocence cannot lead to impunity.”

11:16 p.m. EDT

Lúcia says she has been consistent in her position in favor of preventive detention since 2009.

11:12 p.m. EDT

The court decides unanimously that Lúcia is allowed to vote.

11:06 p.m. EDT

Da Silva’s defense argues that Chief Justice Lúcia should refrain from voting, and that the split vote should be decided in favor of the defendant. Lúcia argues that the Chief Justice traditionally votes on constitutional matters, but asks her colleagues to decide.

Live blog: Brazil's top court nixes ex-President Lula’s last-ditch petition
Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia

11:00 p.m. EDT

Da Silva’s defense asks to be heard.

10:56 p.m. EDT

De Mello votes for da Silva’s petition, leading to a 5-5 tie before the final vote.

10:43 p.m. EDT

Justice Celso de Mello praises presumption of innocence as a historical conquest that “imposes a constitutional limitation on the power of the state, which has the burden to prove the defendant’s guilt.”

9:15 p.m. EDT

Aurélio votes in favor of da Silva’s petition. “If [Brazilian] society had its way, those accused of corruption would face a firing squad,” he says before casting his vote.

9:12 p.m. EDT

“In Brazil, everyone assumes everyone is a crook until proven otherwise,” says Justice Marco Aurélio in defense of the presumption of innocence.

8:55 p.m. EDT

Lewandowski votes in favor of da Silva’s petition. Before casting his vote, he says presumption of innocence is the most important safeguard of citizens’ rights, especially considering how overloaded Brazil’s judicial system is.

8:50 p.m. EDT

“We have risen to No. 3 in the list of countries with the highest incarceration rate [in the world],” says Justice Enrique Ricardo Lewandowski.

8:33 p.m. EDT

Justice José Antonio Dias Toffoli votes “partially” for da Silva’s petition. He says he agrees with preventive detention when a sentence is handed down by a jury, not by a special tribunal, as was the case here.

7:37 p.m. EDT

Fux votes against da Silva’s petition.

7:17 p.m. EDT

“The presumption of innocence” ends once culpability is proven, says Justice Luiz Fux

7 p.m. EDT

The court reconvenes.

6:37 p.m. EDT

Chief Justice Lúcia adjourns the hearing. No return time is given.

6:34 p.m. EDT

Justice Rosa Weber votes against da Silva’s petition.

Live blog - Brazil's top court nixes ex-President Lula’s last-ditch petition3
Justice Rosa Weber

5:34 p.m. EDT

Barroso strikes the third vote against da Silva’s petition.

4:50 p.m. EDT

Barroso cites several notorious criminal cases in which convicts remained free for years while appealing their sentences, including the 2005 murder of Sister Dorothy Stang. “Justice is the nourishment of the soul,” he says.

4:19 p.m. EDT

Justice Luís Roberto Barroso says the hearing is not about da Silva’s political legacy, but about whether legal standards were correctly applied to da Silva’s case. “This is a test of the Judiciary [system],” he says.

4:15 p.m. EDT

De Moraes votes against da Silva’s petition.

3:47 p.m. EDT

Justice Alexandre de Moraes says da Silva’s petition could only be granted if the federal appeals court had committed an illegal action or abuse of power.

3:06 p.m. EDT

Mendes votes in favor of da Silva’s petition.

2:29 p.m. EDT

Justice Gilmar Mendes, who had in similar cases supported the practice of preventive detention while cases are on appeal, says he has come to reconsider his viewpoint. He says he had made some prison visits in which inmates convinced him that preventive detention was too burdensome — especially for those who lacked da Silva’s financial resources.

1:51 p.m. EDT

Fachin votes against da Silva’s petition.

1:15 p.m. EDT

Justice Edson Fachin says the ruling will only apply to da Silva’s case and will not be precedent-setting.

Live blog - Brazil's top court nixes ex-President Lula’s last-ditch petition
Justice Luis Fachin

1:08 p.m. EDT

Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia initiates the hearing.

Brazil’s Supreme Court resumed Wednesday a hearing on former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s petition for relief from prison on a corruption conviction. An earlier hearing on March 22 was cut short, and the court voted 6-5 to grant da Silva temporary relief.

Da Silva was sentenced last year by Federal Judge Sérgio Moro to nine years and six months in prison on charges of trading favors with construction giant OAS in return for the promise of a beachfront apartment in the resort town of Guarujá, São Paulo. A federal appeals court later increased the sentence to 12 years and one month.

The Supreme Court’s 11 justices are set to discuss if da Silva is to immediately start serving the sentence handed down by the federal court even though da Silva has appealed the sentence to the Superior Court of Justice and the Supreme Court itself. The decision is expected to set a precedent and affect the status of other convicts.

With reporting by Agência Brasil

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