OASIS International Study Trip in Boston

Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS)

08/01/2015 (written by msmith) – The Justice in Mexico Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) hosted a two-week study trip for 8 faculty and 4 students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Law School to learn about the U.S. court system, criminal justice procedures, and international law.

This OASIS study trip was made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement as part of the Mérida Initiative. During their two weeks in Boston, the UNAM visitors participated in a series of workshops with Harvard law professors Alex Whiting and Phil Heymann, as well as special sessions with trial judge William Young, prosecutors Jordi de Llano Stephen Heymann, and Fred M Wyshak Jr., and criminal trial and appeals attorney Martin G. Weinberg.

Participants toured Harvard Law School and watched a specially edited version of the 1970s ABC documentary, “The Shooting of Big Man: Anatomy of a Criminal Case,” based on a Harvard law research project. The documentary shows events in the criminal justice system normally hidden from the public: numerous jailhouse sessions between the defendant and his public defender attorneys; the preparation of the case by defense, police and prosecution; and interviews with witnesses and the victim. It culminates with the jury trial and verdict.

Discussions following the film focused on such topics as the different role the police statement plays in a criminal trial in Mexico, as well as questions regarding how evidence can be withheld from the jury. Participants reflected on the question of whether the adversarial system is more concerned with winning than it is with justice, and on some of the achievements and limitations of the U.S. criminal justice system today.

Harvard Professor of Practice Alex Whiting participated in multiple sessions with the UNAM visitors, explaining the pretrial and trial processes, the role of the jury, the process of discovery, techniques for preparing witnesses, methods for providing an effective cross-examination, how to examine plea agreements, and other aspects of the U.S. adversary system.

Professor Whiting explained that U.S. trial proceedings constitute a system of discovery in which the parties (defense attorney, prosecutor, jury) are forced to get to the “truth” of a case together, albeit in a manner that creates checks and balances through an adversarial process. In the pretrial phase, the merits of the criminal investigation are tested by the prosecutor, defense attorney and judge. During the trial, the evidence produced by that investigation is then tested by these same parties before a jury. This system operates in contrast to Mexico’s mixed, inquisitorial system, in which the prosecutor plays a primary role in representing the “truth” to the judge, with a less prominent role for the legal counsel of the accused.

Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division for the United States Attorneys Office for the District of Massachusetts Stephen Heymann and Harvard Professor Philip Heymann discussed with participants the Brady v Maryland (1963) case, the process of conducting an investigation, and the obligations of the government to provide exculpatory evidence to the defendant during the discovery process. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that is favorable to a defendant in a criminal trial, in that it exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt.

The Brady case was a landmark US Supreme Court case in which the prosecution had withheld from the criminal defendant certain evidence. The defendant challenged his conviction, arguing it had been contrary to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Much of the discussion in this session touched upon the investigative techniques prosecutors and police must use as well as what can go wrong. Participants were given a hypothetical situation in which the prosecutor finds out someone is going to be killed. Should the prosecutor warn the person and compromise the investigation or not say anything?

Boston Study Trip

OASIS – Boston International Seminar

While in Boston, the UNAM faculty and students also visited the federal courthouse to attend a sentence hearing and to meet with presiding federal trial judge William Young in his chambers. Participants were able to meet with Judge Young before the sentence hearing and debriefed with him afterwards. Judge Young explained to participants that he gives a sentence based on a defined process and that sentencing is the hardest part of being a judge. As Judge Young explained there are four common goals of sentencing: retribution, specific deterrence, general deterrence, and rehabilitation. With each sentence issued, a judge strives for a combination of these four goals.

Criminal trial and appeals attorney Martin G. Weinberg spoke to participants about the role of the defense lawyer. As Martin said in class, the constitutional rights of the accused are on the shoulders of the criminal defense lawyer. The defense lawyer is creating a counter-narrative of the facts presented by the prosecutor. For Martin, the accused are extremely vulnerable and he identifies the three roles of the defense lawyer as to defend the rights of the guilty; 2) fight for their constitutional liberty; and 3) fight for the innocent. Professor Philip Heymann moderated the discussion and asked Martin questions regarding when the defendant should take the stand as well as what Martin asks of the jury in a closing argument.

Assistant US Attorney Fred M. Wyshak Jr. also met with the UNAM participants to discuss public corruption cases and the guidelines FBI agents must now follow when handling informants. Mr. Wyshak, a prosecutor who has been at the helm of some of the higher-profile criminal cases in federal court in recent years, heads his office’s public corruption and special investigations unit. In particular, he discussed the case of the United States v. Bulger (1972) to highlight what can go wrong when FBI investigators become corrupted by the mob. It was a trial three decades in the making; the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the South Boston mobster charged with 19 murders and operating his own army of paid-off FBI agents, state troopers, and Boston police who protected him instead of his victims for 20 years beginning in the 1970s.

Study Trip Conclusion

Professor Heymann concluded the two-week study trip with a seminar on adversarial criminal procedure in the U.S. and how it will be implemented in Mexico. Using the Socratic method, Professor Heymann called on participants and engaging them in an active discussion. As Professor Heymann emphasized in this discussion, part of the purpose of exploring the U.S. trial system in detail over the course of the two week visit is also to consider ways to avoid future problems in new system in Mexico. The discussion also emphasized the fact that written law is not sufficient to dispel the culture of corruption that currently exists and that the commitment and convictions of the operators of Mexico’s new criminal justice system will be essential to transform this culture.

Closing event - Boston

Closing ceremony with UNAM’s Law School Dean


The two-week workshop concluded with a formal ceremony attended by Dr. María Leoba Castañeda Rivas, the dean of the UNAM law school, who praised the excellent program organized by Dr. Heymann, as well as the earnest and active participation of the UNAM faculty and students. Dr. Castañeda stressed the importance of the seminar for strengthening the UNAM’s capacity to assist in the education and training needed for the implementation of the new criminal justice system in Mexico.


Summary by Justice in Mexico Program Associate Micaela Smith.


Mexican Mayor Gunned Down

Green Party Mayor Elect Rogelio Sánchez Galán on campaign in the weeks before he was gunned down. (Image: Proceso).

Green Party Mayor Elect Rogelio Sánchez Galán on campaign in the weeks before he was gunned down. (Image: Proc(Rogelio Sánchez Galán, the mayor-elect of the city of Jerécuaro in the central state of Guanajuato, was killed on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. The murder took place at around 8:00pm, near a bus stop. Multiple gunmen, who waited inside two different vehicles, shot Sánchez Galán (and two other men who accompanied him) to death; the victim’s assassins fled the crime scene. In response to the tragic incident, local and state prosecutors launched an investigation. However, at the time of this posting, the murderers of Sánchez Galán remained at large.

6/25/2015 (written by frodriguez) – Running as the candidate of the Mexican Ecológical Green Party (PVEM), Sánchez Galán had been elected mayor less than three weeks before he was killed. His term would have lasted from 2015 to 2018. He had previously served in the same position from 2009 to 2012, but serving as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN). During his previous tenure as mayor, Sánchez Galán’s director of Public Security,  José Antonio García Jiménez, was ambushed and killed in April of 2011.

When he was passed over by his own party as candidate for a federal legislative position, Sánchez Galán joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Mexico’s main leftist political party, which postulated him as a candidate  for the Mexican Chamber of Deputies in 2012.

The local PRD president, Baltasar Zamudio Cortes, noted that the assassination of Sánchez Galán reflects the social violence and organized crime that predominates in the state of the city of Jerécuaro, the state of Guanajuato. Zamudio Cortes also added: “This [the predominance of social violence by organized crime] is a reality that local authorities refuse to admit. We demand that those responsible for the death of Sánchez Galán be captured and punished”.





Article written by Fernando Rodriguez-Diaz, for Justice in Mexico Project at University of San Diego.




Attacks by New Generation Cartel in Jalisco


One of several gas station burns in a series of attacks launched by the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (CNGJ). (Photo credit: acentoveintiuno)

05/04/15 (written by cmolzahn-dshirk) Violence and blockades struck the central Pacific state of Jalisco and surrounding areas on Friday, May 1, as Mexican government forces battled the emerging New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG). An army helicopter was shot down over a rural area of Jalisco, killing at least three soldiers, wounding twelve others, and leaving three others missing. While many celebrated the International Labor Day holiday, CJNG operatives torched businesses and set up roadblocks throughout the state, including the state capital, Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. The New York Times observed that the attacks on Friday were the latest among a series of violent clashes that killed four elite Gendarmerie units in March and 15 state police officers in April, and appeared to be a response to federal government efforts targeting the New Generation Cartel.

As noted in the recent report, Drug Violence in Mexico, the New Generation Cartel—in contrast with other groups like the embattled Gulf Cartel, Knights Templar, and Zetas—grew significantly in power and scope over the course of 2014. In response to a recent information request, the PGR revealed in April 2015 that the CJNG is currently operating in its home state of Jalisco, along with Colima, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Guerrero, Morelos, Veracruz and the Federal District. The group gained national attention five years ago, but has spread rapidly over the past year in part due to the weakening of other groups in the region such as the Knights Templar in Michoacán and, according to Alejandro Hope, security director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad, Imco), relative complicity on the part of the Mexican government since its formation in 2010.


According to an account published by El Universal, the CJNG, allegedly led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho,” was formed in 2010 after the death of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, who had been the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel in Jalisco, which left a power vacuum in the region that several criminal groups scrambled to fill. Media reports suggest that the May Day violence was triggered by federal efforts to capture Oseguera Cervantes, who was reportedly born in Aguililla, Michoacán, which in the 1990s was home to a drug trafficking organization run by the Valencia family, also known as the Milenio Cartel. Oseguera Cervantes reportedly served as a police officer in Cabo Corrientes and Tomatlán, two small coastal municipalities in western Jalisco, and also served three years in jail in the United States on heroin trafficking charges.  After his release, Oseguera Cervantes continued to work closely with the Milenio Cartel.


Following the 2003 arrest of Armando Valencia Cornelio, the purported leader of the Milenio Cartel and close affiliate of Oseguera Cervantes, the Milenio Cartel was taken over by new leadership and formed an alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel in opposition to the Zetas. However, the group splintered with the January 2010 death of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a top Sinaloa Cartel operative in Jalisco who was targeted and killed in a federal operation. CJNG was one of two groups that emerged, with Oseguera Cervantes as its leader, and remained aligned to members of the Valencia family. The other splinter group, known as La Resistencia and led by Ramiro “El Molca” Pozos González, allied itself with the La Familia Michoacana. The arrest of Pozos González in September 2012 and subsequent blows to the La Familia organization and its successor, the Knights Templar Organization, paved the way for CJNG’s ascendence.

According to Jesús Pérez Caballero, an expert on organized crime, drug trafficking and criminal justice in Latin America, the CJNG continues to rely heavily on structures put in place by the Milenio Cartel, which today has been largely dismantled. Pérez Caballero adds that Jalisco’s capital, Guadalajara, is attractive to organized crime groups due to its strategic location as a transshipment point, and has played host to several criminal organizations in the past, including the now-defunct Guadalajara cartel, as well as the Sinaloa and Milenio cartels. The city has ample local know-how and infrastructure to facilitate drug trafficking, money laundering, and other criminal operations that may make the CJNG an increasingly important player in Mexico’s underworld in the coming years. So powerful is its base in Jalisco that the federal government reportedly opted not to inform the governor about recent operations targeting the CJNG, due to concerns that sensitive information would be leaked by corrupt officials working in the state government.


CNGJ Operatives (Photo credit: Youtube).

CNGJ Operatives (Photo credit: Youtube).

As was the case with the now greatly weakened La Familia Michoacana, the CJNG emerged with the expressed purpose of countering the presence of the Zetas criminal organization in its home state, branding itself the mata-zetas, or “Zeta killers.” Since establishing dominance in the region, however, the CJNG has taken an oppositional stance to the Mexican government there, similar to La Familia’s open conflict with the Federal Police in Michoacán in 2009-2010. The CJNG has targeted security forces in several attacks in 2015, most notably in an ambush of Jalisco state police (Fuerza Única) agents in early April that left 15 officers dead. The same day another presumed cell of the CJNG killed the municipal police director of Zacoalco de Torres, leaving a sign on his body threatening future attacks against authorities.

An ambush on March 19, 2015 in the Ocotlán municipality left five members of Mexico’s National Gendarmerie dead. In all, 21 killings of police officers were attributed to the CJNG over a 20-day period between March 19 and April 7, 2015. The April attack against the unified police led some security experts to argue that the ambush exposed weaknesses in the state’s relatively nascent police force. Security analyst Gerardo Rodríguez Sánchez-Lara warned that the attack should alert authorities that the cartel is attempting, or has possibly achieved, infiltration into the state’s security apparatus, as well as ties with local authorities, as has been seen in the nearby Pacific states Michoacán and Guerrero.


In addition to its open challenge against Mexican security forces, the CJNG has also recently made its presence known in the state of Michoacán, battling both the Knights Templar organization there as well as self-defense forces. This is likely in a push to insert its influence in Lázaro Cardenas, Michoacán, which houses Mexico’s second busiest port by volume (recently reclaimed by Mexican security forces), and thus a valuable resource for moving shipments of drugs and precursor materials for the production of methamphetamines, the group’s principle activity.


Authorities have made some high-profile arrests of CJNG members, notably of Rubén Oseguera González, “El Menchito,” son of the group’s leader, in January 2014 and of Abigael González Valencia, “El Cuini,” arrested in February and alleged to have been the group’s head of finances. These arrests, however, have not appeared to slow the group’s expansion. Moreover, a federal district court judge ordered El Menchito to be released from prison in January of this year on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence against him. Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes is now considered to be a primary objective of both the U.S. and Mexican governments, and his organization is widely regarded as one of the biggest current threats posed to public security in Mexico.



Rubén Mosso. “Invade cártel de Jalisco ocho estados y el DF.” Milenio. April 20, 2015.

Jesús Pérez Caballero. “CJNG: Cómo adaptarse con éxito a la ‘guerra al narcotráfico’ en México.” Insight Crime. Oct. 14, 2014.

Jorge Monroy. “En cinco años, nuevo cártel se empoderó sin algún freno.” El Economista. April 13, 2015.

“Infiltración del Narco en Jalisco,” El Universal. May 2, 2015.

Marcos Muedano, “El Mencho: Principal objetivo de las fuerzas federales.” El Universal. May 4, 2015. 



Drug Violence in Mexico (2015 Special Report)

2015 Drug Violence in Mexico-Portada

On Wednesday, April 28, 2015, Justice in Mexico, a research and public policy program based at the University of San Diego, released its 2015 report entitled “Drug Violence in Mexico (2015 Special Report)”.

Drug Violence in Mexico (2015 Special Report)

Thanks to the generous funding of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this is the project’s sixth annual study on organized crime and violence in Mexico. As in previous years, this report compiles the latest available data and analysis to evaluate trends related to drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico.

This year’s report builds on past findings and seeks to provide new insights into Mexico’s recent security situation. The authors draw on the latest available data from multiple sources, with a primary emphasis on the first two years in office for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). In contrast to his predecessor, Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), President Peña Nieto appeared to deliberately downplay Mexico’s security problems, while at the same time moving aggressively to take out some of the country’s top drug traffickers, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and top leaders of the Zetas, Gulf Cartel, Knights Templar Organization, and other organized crime groups.

As noted by Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) analyst Maureen Meyer in a recent USA Today article on the report, while there is substantial evidence of a decline in certain forms of crime and violence associated with organized crime, the security situation in Mexico remains problematic. Despite a slight decline, kidnapping and extortion remain at elevated levels. The past year saw a series of security crises for the Peña Nieto administration, including the rise of vigilante self-defense forces in Michoacán, the extrajudicial killing of 20 civilians by the Mexican armed forces in the state of Mexico, and the massacre of dozens of student protestors in the state of Guerrero.

Extortion. Source: SNSP.

Extortion. Source: SNSP.

Kidnappings. Source: SNSP.

Kidnappings. Source: SNSP.


Among study’s most important findings is the apparent decline between 9-15% in homicides in 2014. The authors also found that between one third and half of all homicides in Mexico in 2014 were attributed to organized crime groups, which may signal a slight reduction in the proportion of such homicides. Meanwhile, even as the states of Jalisco and Mexico have emerged as new trouble spots in Mexico’s battle against organized crime there were dramatic reductions of violence in key cities, like Acapulco, Chihuahua, and Ciudad Juárez.

Drug Violence in Mexico (2015 Special Report) was co-authored by Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David A. Shirk.

To read the full 46-page report (21.3 mb PDF), click here.

Zeta Leader Omar “Z-42” Treviño Morales Arrested

Mexico Drug War Cartel Country

(posted by kgrbavac) On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, Mexican officials arrested Omar Trevino Morales, the reputed boss of the Zetas Cartel. Morales is better known as Z-42 in drug trafficking circles. Omar Trevino Morales was arrested near Monterrey, Mexico sometime this morning. Trevino Morales has been the head of the Zetas since 2013, when his brother Miguel Angel Trevino Morales (Z-40) was arrested. Over the last several days, the Mexican government has captured two integral components to their respective crime organization; one being z-42 and the other being Servando Gomez of the Knights Templar drug organization.  This is a major accomplishment for Enrique Pena Nieto and the PRI, but backlash from both organizations may be expected considering the inevitable power struggle that will take place.

Z42The Mexican government offered a $2,000,000 USD award for the whereabout of Omar Trevino Morales in addition to the $5,000,000 USD that the U.S. State Department offered. The American interest in Z-42 lies in the fact that much of his organization’s business occurs north of the Mexican border. The Zetas, a fraction of their former selves, still conduct enough illicit business to be of concern to the governments of both the United States and Mexico. Some may argue that Z-42 brought attention to himself with the laundering of funds through the United States by way of purchasing race horses. Z-42’s brother, Jose Trevino Morales was arrested in 2012 for his part in the money laundering scheme.

mexican-drug-cartels-map-lgThe Zetas hold a significant territorial claim and if they cannot settle internal leadership disputes their future may be grim. Given that Z-42, Jose, and Miguel Angel are all incarcerated the Zetas are without a rightful heir to leadership, the power vacuum may make the Zetas vulnerable to internal schisms or encroachment by the Sinaloa Cartel and/or the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. As Justice in Mexico director David Shirk noted regarding the arrest of Z-40, Omar’s older brother, “Kingpin arrests constitute important successes for law enforcement, insofar as they disrupt criminal operations and put dangerous individuals behind bars… [but] someone always ultimately steps up to take over the business of supplying the seemingly unquenchable demand for illicit drugs.”


Text Sources:

Alexander, Harriet. “Los Zetas Drugs Cartel Leader ‘Z-42’ Arrested in Mexico.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Castillo, E.Eduardo. “Official: Mexico Arrests Zetas Leader Omar Trevino Morales.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Costillo, Mariano. “Reputed Boss of Zetas Drug Cartel Captured in Mexico – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Watson, Katy. “Leader of Mexico’s Zetas Cartel Held.” BBC News. BBC, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

“Mexico: Head Of Los Zetas Drug Cartel Arrested.” NBC News. NBC, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Image Sources: