Support Justice in Mexico on #GivingTuesday #ToreroTuesday


Now in it’s fifth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. #GivingTuesday is a movement, built by people around the world, to celebrate giving of all kinds.

In honor of #GivingTuesday, Justice in Mexico joins USD’s #ToreroTuesday as we encourage alumni, family, and friends of USD’s #JusticeinMexico to support our research and programs. Now in our 15th year, Justice in Mexico continues to work on improving citizen security, strengthening the rule of law, and protecting human rights in Mexico. We continue to exist thanks to the generous financial support of foundations and individual donors committed to finding solutions to complex challenges including crime and violence, police and judicial reform, and protecting the basic rights of citizens under the law in Mexico.

This November 29th, join the global movement and give to Justice in Mexico.

There are 4 simple steps to donate:
Step 1. Go to
Step 2. Choose donation amount.
Step 3. Choose which program to support (‘Other’).
Step 4. Type in Justice in Mexico.
If you like, upload your “I gave” photo on social media #ToreroTuesday #GivingTuesday #JusticeinMexico




Presentation of Justiciabarómetro 2016

Tuesday November 15, 2016 2:10 PM

jaboThe 2016 Justiciabarómetro results will be presented at 2:10 pm on Tuesday, November 15th in room 253 in the Joan B. Kroc building on the University of San Diego campus.

The 2016 Justiciabarómetro presentation will provide an unprecedented look at judicial opinions and expectations about the new oral adversarial system adopted in 2016. The forthcoming report summarizes the responses of a total of 694 judges, prosecutors, and public defenders surveyed in eleven different Mexican states. The survey included a variety of questions on demographic characteristics and professional profile, as well as perceptions of judicial system functioning, lawfulness, corruption, due process, and the implementation of the criminal justice reforms of 2008. This study was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and was designed by leading U.S. and Mexican academics working on judicial sector reforms issues in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Justice in Mexico conducted the first edition of this survey in 2010, providing a baseline for comparison to the data gathered in 2016.

Mexican Federal Judge shot and killed while jogging in the city of Metepec

On the morning of October 17, 2016, Federal Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías of the 5th District was shot and killed while jogging in the city of Metepec, state of Mexico. Source: La Redacción

Mexican Federal Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías was shot and killed while jogging in the city of Metepec on October 17, 2016. Source: La Redacción

10/27/16 (written by Harper Otawka) —On the morning of October 17, 2016, Federal Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías of the 5th District was shot and killed while jogging in the city of Metepec, state of Mexico. Video from a security camera revealed an attacker who approached Judge Bermúdez from behind and shot him in the head. Judge Bermúdez, who was 37 years old, was pronounced dead soon after being rushed by the Red Cross to a nearby hospital. Even for a judicial system known for its corruption and impunity, the murder of a federal judge in broad daylight has shocked the nation.

Following the murder of Judge Bermúdez, President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the killing on national television and instructed the Attorney General (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to investigate the case. Before becoming a federal judge, Judge Bermúdez served on the Supreme Court of his home state, Guanajuato. During his three years in the 5th District, Judge Bermúdez who specialized in criminal law, presided over many cases involving high-profile narcotraficantes, any of which could be connected to his murder.

Soon after the judge’s death, many news sources revealed that Judge Bermúdez previously presided over cases involving Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The judge halted a petition for extradition filed by Guzmán who in March 2016 requested to quicken the transfer to the U.S. due to alleged torture that Guzmán suffered while detained in Mexico. Judge Bermúdez also authorized the interception of communication of El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro. Guzmán’s attorney, José Refugio Rodríguez, came to Guzmán’s defense during an interview on a morning talk-show, stating that Guzmán had no connection to the murder of the judge.

The docket of Judge Bermúdez was also filled with other drug traffickers; He ordered search warrants and communication interceptions for members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG); Judge Zacarías also ordered the arraignment of Abigael “El Cuini” González Valencia, the godfather of Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes who is the leader of CJNG. Also on Judge Bermúdez’ docket was Gildardo “El Gil” López Astudillo, who is the leader of group of hitmen of the criminal organization Guerrero Unidos. El Gil was identified by the PGR as one of the main perpetrators in the case of 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. Although “El Gil” appeared before several federal judges, on September 28, 2015 Judge Bermúdez dismissed an amparo (recurso de amparo is a writ protection, a remedy in Mexican law to protect constitutional rights) filed by El Gil. Judge Zacarías also denied the amparo of Miguel “El Z-40” Ángel Treviño, one of the highest ranking leaders of Los Zetas.

While the Mexican government continues to work towards reform and implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) the murder of Judge Bermúdez, who adjudicated cases involving top drug traffickers in Mexico, comes as a blow to this effort. In the state of Morelos alone, there have been 15 organized crime, execution style killings of attorneys since 2012. In a little over a month, Judge Bermúdez was the third judge murdered in Mexico following the murder of two judges killed in Guerrero. According to El País, the Executive Secretariat of the Monitoring Council of the Federal Judiciary (la Secretaría Ejecutiva de Vigilancia del Consejo de la Judicatura Federal), stated that special security measures are taken for judges who work on federal criminal dockets and in locations where there is a particularly strong presence of organized crime. Currently only 70 of 1,391 federal judges enjoy such security measures such as armored vehicles, escorts and bulletproof vests.

Only days after the death of Judge Bermúdez, Attorney General Arely Gómez González attended a conference for prosecutors in Guadalajara, Jalisco where she condemned the murder of the judge. She stated, “impunity cannot rule the country and fear should not condition justice” (“la impunidad no puede imperar en el país y menos que el miedo condicione a la justicia”). Despite her declaration, journalist Alberto Osorio notes attorney groups in Mexico, including Colegio de Abogados Libres de Jalisco “Tomás López Linares”, continue to criticize the Mexican government for the lack of protection offered to workers within the justice system.


Paullier, Juan. “México: sorpresivo traslado de Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán a una cárcel en Ciudad Juárez.” BBC Mundo. May 7, 2016. 

Brito, Jaime Luis. “Hallan abogado muerto en Morelos; suman 15 litigantes asesinados en gobierno de Graco.” El Proceso. May 11, 2016.

“Video. Momento en que asesinan juez en Metepec.” El Universal. October 17, 2016. 

Mendoza, Veneranda. “Matan a juez federal a cargo de expedientes del CJNG; Peña pide a PGR atraer el caso.” El Proceso. October 17, 2016

“¿Quién era y qué casos llevaba el juez asesinado en Metepec?” Milenio. October 18, 2016.

La Redacción. “Deslindan a ‘El Chapo’ de asesinato de juez.” El Proceso. October 18, 2016.

McDonnell, Patrick J. “A federal judge who ruled on some of Mexico’s highest profile criminal cases was gunned down in broad daylight.” Los Angeles Times. October 18, 2016

Gallegos, Zorayda. “El Poder Judicial en México pide garantizar la seguridad de los jueces.” El País. October 20. 2016.

Osorio, Alberto. “El miedo no pude condicionar a la justicia: Arely Gómez.” El Proceso. October 21, 2016.

Reina, Elena. “Asesinado de un balazo el juez que frenó la extradición de El Chapo Guzmán.” El País. October 21, 2016.

Attack on Military Convoy Leaves Six Dead in Sinaloa

Military vehicle set to fire by organized crime.

Military vehicle set on fire during organized crime attack, September 30th. Source: Negocios 360

10/11/2016 (written by lcalderon) — During the dawn hours of September 30th, a military convoy was ambushed by a heavily armed group of organized crime members. The convoy was in charge of transporting Julio Oscar Ortiz Vega, a.k.a. “El Kevin”,  from a small town in Badiraguato to Culiacán, both in Sinaloa, Mexico. “El Kevin” was an organized crime member and an alleged cousin of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was injured during an earlier shootout between drug cartels and the military in Badiraguato. After arresting him, military personnel provided medical assistance and decided to take him to a hospital in Culiacán, the capital city of the state of Sinaloa. The transfer was planned during the middle of the night to assure the detainee’s security.

The military escort was taken by surprise around 3:00 am on the international highway, Mexico 15, by a large group of criminals who were awaiting them with large caliber arms, grenades, and other explosives. During the confrontation, four military men died at the location and 11 were severely injured, including the paramedic who was in charge of assisting “El Kevin” in the ambulance. The criminals were successful in their mission and managed to take the ambulance with “El Kevin” inside. The injured individuals had to wait for almost an hour for aid and were then relocated to different hospitals in the state. Two of the survivors died later that day in the hospital.

After the attack, the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) launched a major operation in Culiacán to capture the attackers. The operation led to the securing of large caliber arms, ammunitions, tactical suits, federal police badges, bulletproof vests, and other equipment linked to the organized crime unit but no arrest directly related to the attack.


Major Alfonso Duarte Mujica, 9th Military Zone in Sinaloa declared that the ambush was linked to Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s sons, Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán. Source: Sinaloa en Linea

Initially, Alfonso Duarte Mujica, Major of the 9th Military Zone in Sinaloa declared that the ambush was linked to Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s sons Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán, who are now suspects of being fighting for control of the Sinaloa cartel. However, the accused went to their father’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez to declare that they were not involved with the attack and requested an accurate and thorough investigation of the events. According to Milenio, the brothers declared “If we didn’t do it for our father, much less would we do it now!” when responding to the accusations.

Duarte Mujica’s allegations became even stronger when police started to believe that “El Kevin” was a cover up for the person who was in the ambulance that night. Sinaloa police started to suspect that the actual person in that ambulance was Aureliano Guzmán Loera “El Guano,” “El Chapo” Guzmán’s brother. Later, Mexico’s General Attorney’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República) and SEDENA released pictures of “El Kevin” before his rescue. In addition, media sources such as Mexico Rojo discarded the idea that “El Guano” was in that ambulance on September 30th.

Although not proven, Duarte Mujica’s allegations were not completely unreasonable. Badiraguato is a region in the Mexican state of Sinaloa that saw the birth of Mexico’s most famous drug kingpin: Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzmán was one of the founders of the strongest drug cartel –until recently- in Mexico, with its headquarters in Culiacán, Sinaloa. After the last arrest of “El Chapo” Guzmán, Sinaloa has become a warzone between his sons Iván and Alfredo Guzmán Salazar defending what is left of the Sinaloa cartel against their cousin Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán “El Mochomito” on the side of the Beltran Leyva cartel. The territorial dispute between the two cartels has unleashed a spike of violence in Sinaloa, especially in Culiacán.


Asesinan a militares durante brutal tiroteo en Culiacán.” El Debate. September 30, 2016.

Ataque a militares en Sinaloa deja al menos 4 muertos.” Excelsior. September 30, 2016.

Flores, Raúl. Ligan a primo de ‘El Chapo’ a ataque contra militares en Sinaloa.” Excelsior. September 30, 2016.

Suman 5 militares muertos en emboscada en Sinaloa.” SDP Noticias. September 30, 2016. 

Hijos de ‘El Chapo’ niegan ataque a militares.” Mundo Hispanico. October 1, 2016.

Los hijos de “El Chapo” Guzmán sospechosos por emboscada a militares que dejó cinco muertos y 11 heridos en México.” BBC Mundo. October 1, 2016.

Sánchez, Jesús Alejandro. “Abogados: Hijos de “El Chapo” se deslindan de ataque de militares en Sinaloa.” Milenio.  October 1, 2016.

Él fue rescatado en emboscada a militares.” El Debate. October 3, 2016.

La Familia del Chapo le preocupa cacería militar en su contra.” Mexico Rojo. October 3, 2016.

Difunden foto del “Kevin”, presunto sicario rescatado en emboscada de Culiacán.” Proceso. October 4, 2016.

“¿Quiénes son los hijos del “Chapo” que disputan el imperio de su padre?” La Opinión. October 5, 2016.


Justice in Mexico and UNAM School of Law co-host second International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems in Mexico City

Keynote speaker Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossīo Díaz with UNAM Faculty

Keynote speaker Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossīo Díaz with UNAM Faculty

09/20/16 (written by kheinle) – On September 8-9, Justice in Mexico’s Oral Adversarial Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) co-hosted the International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems with the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Law (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City. Over 500 students, faculty, and community members and officials attended to learn about the successes, challenges, and next steps for Mexico’s comprehensive justice reform.

The symposium concluded OASIS’s second yearlong training and education program. Throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, OASIS sponsored three 40-hour courses in oral adversarial litigation skills at the UNAM School of Law as well as visits to various cities in the United States, including Boston, San Diego, and San Francisco, where UNAM School of Law professors and students observed how the U.S. justice system operates. Hosted at the UNAM School of Law, the symposium convened a diverse group of judicial system operators, a Supreme Court judge, prosecutors, government officials, academics, and civil society representatives. It came just a few months after the June 18, 2016 constitutional deadline for full judicial system implementation, closing an eight-year period during which Mexico’s 32 states were obligated to implement and begin operating the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP).

Master of Ceremonies Christopher Arpaur Pastrana Cortés

International symposium Master of Ceremonies Christopher Arpaur Pastrana Cortés

The symposium began with introductory comments from Dr. David Shirk, director of Justice in Mexico; Dr. Stephen Ferruolo, dean of the University of San Diego’s (USD) School of Law; Dr. Alfonso del Valle, coordinator for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Rule of Law program; Dr. María de los Ángeles Fromow, Director of the Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System’s Technical Secretariat (Secretaría Técnica del Consejo de Coordinación para la Implementación del Sistema de Justicia, SETEC), and Dr. Raúl Contreras Bustamante, dean of UNAM’s School of Law. Among other welcoming remarks, the speakers emphasized the important role that institutions like USD and UNAM have had in contributing to NSJP reform’s successes and remaining challenges moving forward.

The symposium’s first panel, “Human Rights and Civil Rights in Mexico and the United States,” was moderated by OASIS Training Course Director Janice Deaton. Dr. Luis de la Barreda Solózano of UNAM opened with a discussion on human rights in the Mexican legal system, detailing several major moments in Mexico: the 1990 creation of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH); the 2011 constitutional reform that prioritizes the protection of human rights when the situation weighs constitutional versus international treaties; the importance of the Supreme Court’s (Suprema Corte Nacional de Justicia, SCNJ) ruling that adheres Mexico to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) resolutions; and a critique of the country’s use of arraigo. Former CNDH president, Dr. Mireille Roccatti, furthered the conversation on the CNDH and the 2011 constitutional reform in her broader discussion on mechanisms through which to defend human rights in the legal framework. She also discussed the role of amparo in the legal system—an injunction that protects individual’s rights from inappropriate acts or failure to act by authorities.

Assistant Attorney General Anthony Da Silva of the California Department of Justice then spoke on the successful integration of human rights protections into the U.S. legal system, specifically looking at international versus national law surrounding human rights, and the constitutional rights of the defendant. He outlined an array of legal rights that individuals have as part of their right to due process, including the right to a public trial, attorney, impartial jury, and presumption of innocence. USD professor Andrew Tirrell concluded the panel looking instead at the lack of human rights integration in the U.S. justice system and the continued challenges that persist. He focused on racial discrimination, capital punishment, and the role of mental capacity or incapacity among defendants in their proceedings, tying together how all three undermine the protection of human rights in the United States.

UNAM law professor and attorney Guillermo Alcantár moderated the second panel of the day, “Civic Initiatives for the New Criminal Justice System in Mexico.” Panelist Susana Catalina Peña Parás, administrative coordinator for the Center for Studies on the Teachings and Learning of Law, A.C. (Centro de Estudios sobre la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje del Derecho, A.C., CEEAD), highlighted the important role universities have played and will continue to play in the judicial system reform. She spoke on the six ways that her organization, CEEAD, supports universities in this process, including advising universities on curriculum updates, creating educational material, training professors, developing a diagnostic test or evaluation to measure students’ understanding of the adversarial system, monitoring implementation, and exchanging best practices. Dr. David Fernández Mena, director for the American Bar Association-Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA-ROLI) Mexico Program, followed with his presentation on his institution’s role at universities and within civil society organizations. He argued that universities have a profound role in the reform, both in ensuring that students are ready and trained to operate within the system and that professors are equipped to sufficiently teach their students on the new system. The panel concluded with Layda Negrete of México Evalúa, who spoke on civic initiatives related to the criminal system through a statistical lens. Negrete discussed how México Evalúa measures the results of the new system’s implementation taking into account seven indicators: public confidence, homicide levels, reporting of crimes, quality of treatment for victims, presumption of innocence, fair criminal procedures, and quality of prison conditions.

The symposium’s second day began with a panel discussion, moderated by UNAM law professor Trilce Ovilla Bueno, dedicated to critical perspectives of the new accusatorial system. USD School of Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo shared critiques of the United States accusatorial system and how the U.S. is addressing these issues, thus providing a comparative study. He cautioned that many in the United States do not fully understand the judiciary’s role in the democratic system, and how that undermines a successful rule of law. He also called attention to the role of universities in training lawyers first and foremost to respect the law and justice in their work. UNAM law professor Dr. Raúl Carranca y Rivas followed with his presentation on the important role that language plays in the legal process. Dr. Carranca y Rivas advocated that law students must know, master, and respect legal speech, particularly in the NSJP that is built on oral trials. “Speaking well is an art,” he said. UNAM law professor Dr. Víctor Manuel Garay Garzón followed with a discussion on challenges faced in the NSJP.  Specifically, he discussed the lack of formal or adequate marketing and promotion of the system prior to its implementation. For example, Dr. Garay Garzón spoke on the importance of preparing a civil society for a drastic change, like that of a new judicial system, before training of legal actors and operators began.

Judge Belem Bolanos Martínez continued the panel with her presentation on Mexico’s National Code of Penal Procedures (Código Nacional de Procedimiento Penal, CNPP) and the challenges that existed under the old criminal justice system versus those under the new. She summarized that greater communication among judicial system operators and continued training in general is needed to operate within the new system, as decisions made in the courtroom may be immediate, thus requiring the judge to have a deeper understanding of the case and evidence presented. Rommel Moreno Manjarréz of the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) concluded the panel with a look at the importance of creating a civil society that supports the NSJP. He noted the critical role academia plays in the system’s reform, as well as the necessity of growing a civil society that respects the new system while also continuing to question and critique.

Dr. Viridiana Rios moderates symposium panel.

Dr. Viridiana Rios moderates symposium panel “The NSJP in Action”.

Dr. Viridiana Ríos, a research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, moderated the day’s second panel, “The NSJP in Action.” Justice in Mexico Director Dr. David Shirk led off with an overview of Justice in Mexico’s work and its upcoming publication to be released in fall 2016 as part of its Justiciabarómetro initiative. The report will feature first-of-its-kind data, which Dr. Shirk shared, on judges’, prosecutors’, and defense attorneys’ perceptions of the new judicial system compared to their opinions from 2010. Professor Karol Derwich of Jagiellonian University’s Center of Latin American Studies then presented on the juxtaposition between Mexico being arguably a dysfunctional state while simultaneously introducing the new accusatorial model of justice, a significant step forward in its continued efforts to consolidate democratic efforts. Although only seven of 100 crimes are reported in Mexico, Derwich noted, the NSJP can support Mexico in advancing beyond a dysfunctional status.

The panel moved into a presentation by María Novoa of the Center for Investigation and Development, A.C. (Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo, A.C., CIDAC), who spoke on the necessity of unifying the new criminal code (CNPP) to enhance the system’s acceptance, implementation, and evaluation. Novoa pointed to systemic and institutional challenges in Mexico that threaten the new adversarial system’s success, including the lack of uniformity within the system; subpar institutional coordination; the need for quality scientific research and investigation protocols at crime scenes; and the underuse of alternative methods for conflict resolution, among others. Professor Zulia Orozco of the Autonomous University of Baja California (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, UABC) concluded the panel with her analysis of the crucial role police play in the NSJP. She called attention to areas in which state and local police departments are lacking, such as institutionalizing training on matters of age, disability, and gender, and how the NSJP seeks to strengthen police departments and the institution as a whole.

Keynote speaker, Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz, concluded the symposium with a diagnosis of the NSJP. The reality, he argued, is that there were many years during the implementation stage that could have been more properly used for preparing the country for the radical judicial system changes. Justice Cossío spoke specifically to four challenges he sees within the new system: inadequate training of judicial system operators and law students; poor information sharing between judicial system actors, academia, government, and civil society; the undermining of human rights at the federal level (e.g., Ayotzinapa); and the inharmonious use of amparo and oral trials. Justice Cossío concluded, “We are poorly prepared for oral trials… We need to identify the challenges and weak spots [of the NSJP], dialogue and create solutions, and modify the reform to make it better.”

The second OASIS symposium was a great success, drawing together a variety of diverse stakeholders and key government officials, members of academia, and civil society representatives. It was a productive event capping off another successful year for OASIS. Justice in Mexico would like to thank the symposium’s panelists and moderators, and UNAM’s School of Law faculty for their dedicated collaboration and commitment to justice reform in Mexico.