The gunmen who murdered an environmental activist couple in Brazil have been convicted and each sentenced to 40 years in prison.  But the alleged mastermind of the attack was found not guilty and walked free.

José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espirito Santo, had for a decade ran a cooperative in the Amazon Rainforest that harvested nuts and oils.  And for a decade they spoke out against illegal logging and ranching, the chief causes of deforestation. Ribeiro da Silva spoke at a regional TEDx conference in 2010 and said that he could be assassinated at any moment.

And a few months later, that is exactly what happened, to him and his wife.  Police tracked the trio of suspects to a jungle hideout 300 Kilometers away. 

Despite convicting two out of three suspects, the victims’ families and their supporters were angry. 100 people outside the courthouse chanted for “justice” and to condemn the crime.

The murders were the first in a series of ten in a three-month period in the Amazon.  Agrarian land disputes are a deadly business in Brazil.  32 people were murdered last year as a direct result.  And right now, there are 400 environmental and human rights activists living with death threats.

"Violence is the instrument of local capitalism," says Brazilian political ecologist Felipe Milanez.

"(Landowners are) proud to kill and they're seen by some as local heroes defending their property with their blood. It's insane, but it's what happening there."