Federal judge, wife killed in cartel-plagued Mexican state

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — A federal judge and his wife have been killed in the western Mexico state of Colima, said Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar, who interrupted a session Tuesday to break the news.

Killings of federal judges are rare in Mexico, but the Pacific coast state of Colima has Mexico’s highest murder rate and is plagued by drug cartel violence.

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Federal judges in Mexico hear many of the most serious cases, like drug trafficking and weapons possession.

The federal attorney general’s office said it would take over investigations into the killing, but did not offer details of the deaths of District Court Judge Uriel Villegas Ortiz and his wife Verónica Barajas.

While judges are believed to be frequently pressured by organized crime in Mexico and lawyers involved in drug cases have been killed in the past, killings of federal judges are extremely rare. In the past, however, some judges have been provided with protective measures like bulletproof cars.

In 2006, a federal judge was shot to death while traveling in his car near a maximum-security prison outside Mexico City that holds some of Mexico’s top drug suspects.

Mexico wants to avoid a situation like Colombia’s drug conflicts of the 1980s, when judges were often targets for attacks.

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