The Miami Herald
November 3, 2000

 Generals jury seeks guidance for verdict

 Slain nuns' kin sue for millions


 The six-woman, four-man jury considering a wrongful-death case against two
 former Salvadoran generals left the West Palm Beach federal courthouse
 Thursday without returning a verdict, but after submitting a flurry of questions
 about a complex jury instruction.

 At 11:20 a.m. -- two hours into their first day of deliberation -- the jurors wanted
 clarification on the doctrine of command responsibility: the legal basis on which
 the families of four churchwomen, murdered 20 years ago, are suing.


 The plaintiffs must meet three legal criteria under that doctrine to prove that José
 Guillermo García and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova were complicit in the rapes
 and shooting deaths of Sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and
 missionary Jean Donovan 20 years ago: that troops under the generals' ``effective''
 command -- over whom they actually had control -- had tortured and killed
 civilians; that the generals knew, or should have known about the abuses; and
 that they did nothing to stop, investigate, or punish it.

 Garcia was defense minister and Vides was National Guard director when five
 guardsmen killed the women on Dec 2, 1980.

 Jurors asked if they could, or were required to, judge the generals by any criteria
 other than -- or in addition to -- the command-responsibility doctrine.

 And, a juror queried: ``Are we being asked to judge [the generals'] crimes against
 the churchwomen, or the people of El Salvador as a whole?''


 Defense attorney Kurt R. Klaus, Jr., implored U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K.
 Hurley to deliver yes-or-no answers.

 Instead, Hurley offered explanations that seemed to leave the jurors more
 confused than before.

 More than a half-hour later, he directed them back to the jury room, hoping they
 understood that they could consider the women's deaths in context: whether, as
 Hurley said, the generals created or tolerated an atmosphere in which
 subordinates presumed a ``green light'' to brutalize civilians.

 But no, he advised, the plaintiffs didn't need to prove that the generals had to have
 known the identities of specifically targeted victims.

 And no, jurors were not to assess the defendants' role in all of El Salvador's
 bloody woes: only the four murders.

 If the jury finds that the plaintiffs have satisfied all three command-responsibility
 criteria, then, Hurley explained, they must link the generals' actions -- or lack
 thereof -- to the murders, in order to award damages.

 The women's families are asking $25 million apiece in compensatory damages,
 and unspecified punitive damages.

 Garcia, 67, who lives in the 7700 block of Northwest 13th Court, Plantation, and
 Vides, 62, of Palm Coast, near Daytona, were absent from the courthouse

 Deliberations continue this morning.