Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Training for change

The change in Mexico's legal system is not something that happens automatically. Judges, lawyers, the accused, and the public need to learn new roles in an adversarial system.

Mexican Prosecutors Train in U.S. for Changes in Their Legal System

"In what experts say is nothing short of a revolution, Mexico is gradually abandoning its centuries-old Napoleonic system of closed-door, written inquisitions -- largely a legacy of Spanish colonial rule -- that had long been criticized as rife with corruption, opaque decisions, abuse of defendants and red tape that bogged down cases for years.

"Instead, for the first time, defendants will be presumed innocent until proved guilty, instead of the other way around, as they are now. The police will use more forensics and meticulous fact-gathering. Plea bargains, mediation and probation, never tried before in Mexico, will become standard.

"And, in what many consider one of the biggest leaps, courtroom doors will be thrown open to the public for oral trials before a trio of judges where victims and the accused can confront one another and evidence will be laid out in the open...

"The changes, long demanded by human rights groups, are similar to reforms in a dozen other Latin American countries...

"[A training] session, with 27 Mexican lawyers from three states... was organized by the Conference of Western Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General, which together will be training several hundred prosecutors in the next few years..."

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