Original murder charge against van der Sloot will stand

Story highlights

  • If convicted, Joran van der Sloot would face a maximum of 30 years in prison
  • The victim's family had asked for a more stringent charge, akin to aggravated murder
  • Van der Sloot is accused of killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores last year
  • His lawyer has said van der Sloot would confess to a charge of simple homicide
A panel of judges in Peru has ruled against augmenting the charges against Joran van der Sloot, meaning the original charges of murder and robbery will stand and that the Dutch national would face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
Van der Sloot is accused of killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores in his Lima hotel room last year. Police say van der Sloot took money and bank cards from her wallet and fled to Chile, where he was arrested a few days later.
He was charged in September with "qualified murder" and simple robbery, which carry sentences of 28 years and two years, respectively.
However, the victim's family had asked a three-judge panel for a more stringent charge, akin to aggravated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The panel ruled in favor of prosecutors' original indictment.
Van der Sloot's defense attorney, Luis Jimenez Navarro, told InSession the decision was a major victory for his client. If van der Sloot is found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty, under Peru's jail reduction credits, he might serve only a third of the time.
Jimenez has previously said that his client would confess to a charge of simple homicide.
Despite the panel's decision, the Flores family remains hopeful that van der Sloot will face more serious charges. A family attorney said that because of how the justice system works in Peru, the charges could change once the trial begins.
"We can ask the prosecutor to modify the indictment as new facts come out during the trial. But on the first day of trial, we expect van der Sloot to plead guilty to both charges. It seems this will be in his best interest," the attorney told InSession.
Meanwhile, van der Sloot's lawyer said that he plans to file a motion with the court, requesting his client be set free.
As of early next month, van der Sloot will have spent 18 months in Peruvian prison. Jimenez will argue that under Peruvian law, it is considered excessive imprisonment when a person has been jailed for more than 18 months without having had his day in court.
No date has been set yet on the case.
"The delay is not his fault. We have been acting in good faith. He has been cooperating with the authorities. And they still don't have a translator," said Jimenez.
It will be up to the court to decide whether van der Sloot is freed. Because of the case's complexity, a judge could rule to keep him behind bars. Once Jimenez presents his habeas corpus motion, a panel of judges will meet to interview van der Sloot and make a determination.
Jimenez said he is not hopeful the case against his client will be heard any time soon, given the upcoming court calendar. In Peru, judges are switched out in January and the courts take vacation in February.
Van der Sloot was once the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, who vanished while on a graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba. He was arrested twice but never charged in connection with Holloway's disappearance, which remains unsolved.
He also faces extradition charges to the United States. In June, 2010 a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted van der Sloot on charges of wire fraud and extortion after allegations that he tried to extort $250,000 from Holloway's mother. Authorities believe he used that money to travel to Peru and participate in a poker tournament, where he met Flores.