The Netflix documentary Rosa Peral’s Tapes was released today, together with the mini-series Burning Body, both based on the same case. Back in 2017, the Rosa Peral case got a lot of media attention, and it became the talk of the town. Everybody had perceptions and opinions that they had formed even before Rosa went to trial, and Rosa’s past life just added fuel to the fire. We, as a society, love crimes of passion, but in the fervor, we often forget that our opinions and judgments do not matter if they are not backed by strong evidence. Yes, we do agree that, at times, the perceptions are right, but at the end of the day, it is our duty as civil society to see that the rule of law prevails. The Netflix documentary Rosa Peral’s Tapes does not aim to establish whether Rosa committed the crime or not; in fact, it tries to ascertain if she got a fair trial and if due process of law was followed. So, let’s find out what the makers have to say.
What happened during Rosa Peral’s trial?
The prosecutors had a very tough task on their hands, as they had to prove that there was premeditation on Rosa and Albert’s part because only then could they say that they were guilty of committing the murder of Pedros. The defendants, on the other hand, just had to prove that the evidence was merely circumstantial and that it couldn’t be proven beyond doubt that Rosa wanted to kill her husband, and that in order to do that, she had conspired with Albert. Rosa contended that it was Albert who had committed the murder of her husband, whereas Albert made the same accusation against Rosa. But the prosecutors had come up with a third theory: they wanted to prove in court that both of them had conspired together since they wanted to remove the only obstacle standing in between their “forever together” status.
Now, the prosecution did not have any option but to present Rosa as the female fatale and bring her private life, i.e., the numerous past affairs she had, under the public’s purview. It was not a very ethical thing to do, and they knew that, but the prosecutors said in their defense that if there were elements from Rosa’s personal life that could strengthen their case and help establish the motive of the person, then they wouldn’t refrain from doing so.
On the other hand, the defendants in Rosa Peral’s Tapes maintained the fact that by trying to make the jury know about Rosa’s affair, the prosecutors were manipulating them to believe that the accused had the potential to indulge in unscrupulous activities, and henceforth, she could also kill her husband if the need arose. But there was a distinction between committing a sin and committing a crime, and the prosecutors merely wanted to blur that line and make both things one and the same. During the trial, it was established that Albert and Rosa had once again started talking in April 2017, just days before Pedro was murdered. Now, the prosecution claimed that Rosa and Albert were making their plan on the calls and trying to decipher what they needed to keep in mind and what they should do so that the police did not get any incriminating evidence against them. Now, this theory about conspiring on the phone was totally speculative, as the prosecutors didn’t have any clue what they talked about. The sum total of all the calls was only 28 minutes, and the defendants said that it wasn’t possible to make such an elaborate plan and discuss all those things in that amount of time. The prosecutors also said that they might have been talking on Telegram, where the messages could not be tracked, though once again, it was only a hypothesis on their part that couldn’t be proved in court.
Rosa’s ex-husband’s partner, Antonia, had said that Rosa’s own daughter had told her that she had seen her mother killing Pedro. Rosa’s daughter was a minor at the time, and she was given the option not to testify against her mother if she didn’t want to. So the prosecution brought Antonia to court, but the judge didn’t allow her to explicitly state what Rosa’s daughter had told her since it would have amounted to circumventing the privilege being given to Rosa’s daughter. But the court allowed Antonia to describe in actions and gestures what she knew about Rosa without uttering a word. It was a very illogical thing to do, as even though Antonia didn’t say anything, the jury understood the point she wanted to make, and it would have definitely impacted their judgment. The judge told the jury that they could not use whatever she said while passing their verdict, but how can one not take into account the influence it would have had on their perceptions? We believe Rosa lost the case there, and for the first time, without any sort of primary evidence present to prove that Rosa and Albert were directly linked to the murder, the court, in Rosa Peral’s Tapes, ruled against them.
Did Rosa Peral have an unfair trial?
According to the Netflix documentary, Rosa Peral’s Tapes, the evidence was not enough to hold Rosa and Albert guilty of premeditated murder. Everything presented by the prosecution was circumstantial in nature, and what they did was splendidly paint a picture of Rosa as a characterless woman who could go to any extent to attain what she wanted. Again, we want to clarify here that we don’t know if she committed the murder or not, but the fact that the prosecution played with perceptions when their case was very weak cannot be denied.
Also, the media had a huge role to play in the scheme of things, as even before the trial, her character assassination had begun. It is difficult to imagine that the court would have passed a similar judgment if such things about Rosa’s private life hadn’t surfaced. There was also another case that was going on between Oscar (a colleague of Rosa in the police department) and Rosa, where the former had emailed a picture of them indulging in a private moment, to multiple people. In this case, too, Oscar was acquitted even though Rosa had a voice recording where the former confessed to having sent that email. Somewhere, Rosa’s image once again became her enemy, and the court ruled that the evidence was not strong enough to establish Oscar’s guilt.
The media loves a femme fatale, and there were journalists who agreed that if the story had been presented in a manner where Rosa was shown in a good light, then it wouldn’t have sold as much. While giving an interview from the prison, Rosa stated that she believed that the court had given an unfair judgment and that there were a lot of details that were blatantly ignored that could have strengthened her case. Rosa never took a moral high ground and said that she didn’t indulge in adulterous relationships, and she wanted to establish that committing a crime and acting immorally were two separate things. But the prosecutors were able to override that fact and present a narrative (yes, we do call it a narrative because it wasn’t backed by solid evidence) that was able to sway the jury in their favor.