Keep on tryingReform of the Mexican judiciary system has been coming for a long time, been very slow and uneven.
Most Americans are so familiar with the adversarial system we and the Brits use, that we aren't aware of the inquisitorial system used in Russia, Iran, China, and (until recently) in Mexico. It's a good distinction for student of comparative politics to be aware of.
The latest summary from The Economist is a good one.
I've added some links to earlier blog posts about this if you're looking to make a lesson out of these sources.
Criminal justice in Mexico: Trials and errors
Historically around 95% of criminal verdicts in Mexico have been convictions. And 90% of those have been based on confessions, which police have a nasty habit of beating out of prisoners…
Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s conservative president from 2006 to 2012 [launched] a root-and-branch transformation of its courts, which is scheduled to be fully implemented by June 18th…
The new system scraps the “inquisitorial” approach, in which a prosecutor presents written evidence that the defence has little opportunity to contest, in favour of a more transparent “adversarial” model, where lawyers argue their cases orally before a judge. It establishes basic rights for defendants, like the presumption of innocence and the provision of a lawyer, and excludes confessions from court unless a defence attorney was present when they were given. It allows alternative approaches to justice, such as mediation, for less serious cases. And it fights corruption by requiring the involvement of three separate judges: one to ensure the rights of the accused are observed before the trial, another to preside in court and a third to guarantee the sentence is carried out correctly.
The policy has been a long time coming. It became law in June 2008. When Mr Calderón left office in 2012, just under 30% of Mexicans lived in areas covered by the new rules. His successor, the centrist Enrique Peña Nieto, belongs to a different political party, but has proved an eager reformer…
Evidence from states that have instituted the changes is encouraging. In particular, they seem to have streamlined the judicial process: the average time to resolve a case has dropped from 180 days to 34. In Mexico City, prison overcrowding fell by 70% in the system’s first four months, mainly because many types of crime could be dealt with through mediation rather than by the courts. And three of the earlier-adopting states, Baja California, Morelos and Nuevo León, have reduced the share of defendants put in pre-trial custody…
Yet despite such growing pains, there is wide consensus that the reforms are necessary if not sufficient to establish the rule of law in every corner of Mexico. Their implementation, says David Shirk of the University of San Diego, represents a “milestone in the marathon to a better criminal-justice system”. That is reason for hope.
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