Mexico has revoked the prison sentence of a man who killed his rapist in self-defense
MEXICO CITY — Mexican prosecutors announced Saturday night that they will drop the case against a woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for killing a rapist when he attacked her.
In a ruling last week that sparked public outrage, a Mexican state court said that while it agreed that 23-year-old Roxana Ruiz was raped in 2021, it found her guilty of manslaughter in “excessive use of legitimate defense.” He also ordered Ruiz to pay more than $16,000 in restitution to the family of his attacker.
Feminist groups supporting Ruiz’s defense protested angrily, saying the ruling criminalizes survivors of sexual assault while protecting perpetrators in a country with high rates of gender-based violence and femicide. Protesters in Mexico City carried signs reading “Defending my life is not a crime.”
Ruiz told reporters after the court’s decision that he had received death threats over the case and was worried about his family’s safety, especially the life of his 4-year-old son.
“This is not justice,” he said. “Remember, I’m the one who was sexually assaulted by that man, and after he died because I defended myself…because I didn’t want to die at his hands.”
Responding to the outrage, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a morning news conference that he would pardon Ruiz. But his lawyers said accepting the pardon means Ruiz has committed a crime and is completely innocent.
The State Attorney’s Office said in a press release on Saturday evening that it had investigated the case – considering that Ruiz belongs to a vulnerable group – and found that he was “not guilty”. He added that prosecutors believe he acted in self-defense.
The announcement was celebrated by Ruiz’s defense attorney, Ángel Carrera, although he noted that he had not been formally notified of the charges.
“It means they recognize his innocence,” Carrera told The Associated Press. “It’s an acknowledgment that he was simply defending himself.”
In May 2021, Ruiz was working selling French fries in Nezahualcoyotl, one of 11 municipalities in Mexico State, a state bordering Mexico City on three sides, that continues to issue alerts warning women of femicides and enforced disappearances of women.
According to the defense, Ruiz had been drinking with a friend and a man she knew from the area, and the man offered to walk her home and later asked her to stay the night because it was late and he was away from home. While the girl was sleeping on a separate bed, the man attacked her and raped her.
Ruiz fought back and threatened to kill him, and during the struggle, Ruiz managed to kill the man in self-defense, Carrera said.
The court said the man was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, saying that was enough for Ruiz to defend himself. Carrera said that claim was “absolutely false” and said it had not been determined whether the attacker was rendered unconscious.
Carrera said that in a panic, Ruiz put the man’s body in a bag and carried it out into the street, where he was arrested by passing police.
Even though Ruiz told police she had been raped, a forensic examination was never conducted, a crucial step in the prosecution of sexual assault cases, Carrera said. Instead, an officer replied that he probably wanted to have sex with the man first and then changed his mind, the lawyer said.
According to government data, nearly half of Mexican women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
In 2022, the Mexican government recorded a total of 3,754 women—an average of 10 per day—who were murdered, a significant jump from the previous year. Only a third of them were investigated as femicides.
Carrera said she hopes the announcement to drop the case sets a precedent for more thorough investigation and sensitivity in other cases of gender-based violence.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Ruiz has given permission to be identified and participates in public demonstrations led by activists who support him.
Associated Press reporter Fernanda Pesce contributed to this report.