Justice in Mexico XV Anniversary Celebration

Justice in Mexico: An Agenda for the Years Ahead at USD

Justice in Mexico: An Agenda for the Years Ahead at USD

Justice in Mexico: An Agenda for the Years Ahead

August 11, 2017

University of San Diego, Hahn University Center

Reception-5:00pm          Dinner- 6:30pm

 
Please join us for a special reception and dinner to recognize binational efforts to advance the rule of law, combat corruption, and promote human rights in Mexico.

 

Guests of Honor

Amb. Miguel Basáñez (former Ambassador of Mexico to the United States)

Dr. Wayne Cornelius (former Director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego)

Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz (Mexican Supreme Court)

Dr. Denise Dresser (professor of ITAM, political analyst and journalist)

Dr. Edna Jaime (Director, México Evalúa)

Ticket Prices

Ticket prices before 7/7/17: $65 for dinner and $85 for reception and dinner

Ticket prices after 7/7/17: $75 for dinner and $95 for reception and dinner

 

Please register using the following link: 

Register

 

Huachicoleros on the rise in Mexico

Policeman inspects barrels containing stolen fuel Source: The Huffington Post Mexico

05/20/2017 (written by Laura Calderon) – A new form of organized crime has become a significant problem for Mexican authorities in over 22 states of Mexico: thefts of petroleum. Petroleum thieves are commonly known in Mexico as huachicoleros, a name adopted by gasoline truck drivers to refer to the stolen hydrocarbon, or chupaductos (pipeline suckers). Although petroleum stealing has been spreading throughout the country over the last few months, most of this activity takes place in an area called the Triángulo Rojo (Red Triangle) which encompasses the municipalities of Tepeaca, Palmar de Bravo, Quecholac, Acatzingo, Acajete and Tecamachalco, all in the state of Puebla. The Red Triangle has the most huachicolero activity because it is a transit zone for 40% of the fuel distributed from Mexico City to the rest of the country.

On average, huachicoleros are stealing 5.5 million liters of fuel nationwide. Huachicoleros are stealing petroleum in a variety of products: raw oil, gasoline, diesel, and other hydrocarbons found in major pipelines throughout Mexico and property of Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Pipeline thefts became more popular as the gasoline supply in some areas decreased and prices drastically increased across the country. As a result, huachicoleros identified an opportunity to steal petroleum products and sell them in heavily transited highways for half the market price, costing PEMEX approximately 6 million pesos in losses from 2011 to 2016. Given these losses, foreign investments have become more difficult to attract to the Mexican government’s energy sector.

Social Impact

Groups of huachicoleros have managed to gain community approval and support in a variety of ways. First, they offer gasoline at significantly lower prices than official gasoline stations, benefiting from volume sales rather than pricing. Second, they take advantage of special holidays and events to give some of the stolen fuel and other goods to residents within strategic areas for fuel stealing and distribution in an effort to create stronger partnerships with the community. For example, every Mothers’ Day in San Salvador Huixcolotla (state of Puebla), huachicoleros give units of stolen gasoline and home appliances to residents in an effort to build rapport and ensure protection. Finally, local communities have adopted a new kind of huachicolero subculture reflected in a new character inspired by a Catholic saint “El Santo Niño Huachicolero,” to whom residents offer barrels of fuel as an offering and prayer for protection and abundance.

Violent altercations between huachicoleros and security forces

Huachicolero activities have not only had significant economic impact for PEMEX and local governments, but violent altercations have

Military officers seize stolen fuel from huachicoleros. Source: El Universal

ensued between huachicoleros and federal police and military forces in at least two different cities in Mexico.

On March 30th state and military forces and a group of huachicoleros were caught in an armed conflict in the city of Cuesta Blanca (state of Puebla). When officials were surveilling the zone and observed a group of huachicoleros with at least nine units full of stolen fuel, the huachicolero group began firing. The huachicolero group was identified to be part of the criminal gang headed by Roberto “El Bukanas”. Two people were wounded and arrested for being linked to the Bukanas gang, a gang presumed to be tied to the Zetas cartel.

Another shooting between military forces and huachicoleros occurred more recently on May 3rd in Palmarito Tochapan (state of Puebla). At least two military officers were killed and one wounded when they recognized several units of stolen fuel and were attacked by the huachicoleros who were reportedly shielding themselves behind women and children. However, this shooting is highly contested by the media and Mexican authorities due to security camera footage that captured the altercation. With the videos made public, there are now contesting narratives about the specific events during the shooting and number of casualties. As this event highlights, special attention must be paid to the extrajudicial execution of a presumed huachicolero by a military officer.

Government response

After the May 3rd attack, local, state, and federal authorities began to implement more strict surveillance operations in strategic areas, in an effort to deter huachicoleros from stealing more fuel. This increase in security measures has impacted the gasoline black market in two meaningful ways: First, given how much more difficult the extraction of petroleum has become for huachicoleros, the resale price of gasoline has increased 40% over the last couple of months. As a result, consumption of their gasoline has significantly decreased forcing huachicoleros to only provide their services for a limited number of days a week and to a privileged list of frequent consumers.

In addition, on April 28th the Mexican Congress approved a legislation reform that increases sentences for fuel stealing to up to 25 years in prison and fines up to 2 million pesos if found guilty. Congress approved this initiative with 321 votes in favor, 18 against, and 37 abstentions and is planned to become effective in September. However, the head of the Ministry of Treasure and Public Credit (Secretaría De Hacienda y Crédito Público), José Antonio Meade, recently appealed to Congress to expedite the reform’s effective date  given the gravity of the situation and to initiate further comprehensive reforms to address fuel stealing.

Huachicoleros have gained increased attention from the media after their recent confrontations with federal and military authorities. As they continue to challenge local and state measures, Congress will need to continue its search for more efficient measures to tackle the issue from its source in order to eliminate that practice and hopefully eradicate the violence generated by it.

 

Sources

“¿Quiénes son los huachicoleros?.” El Debate. 4 May 2017.

“Aprueban diputados aumentar penas por robo de combustible.” El Diario. 28 April 2017.

“Decomiso de combustible desata enfrentamiento en Cuesta Blanca.” El Sol de Puebla. 31 March 2017.

“El Bukanas, El Toñín y La Negra, los tres líderes huachicoleros de Puebla.” El Sol de Puebla. 15 May 2017.

“Mueren dos militares en enfrentamiento con huachicoleros en Palmarito Tochapan.” El Sol de Puebla. 3 May 2017.

“Perfil: el sanguinario capo del huachicol.” Diario Cambio. 13 March 2017.

Badillo, Jesús. “El Triángulo Rojo, mina de ‘oro negro’ de huachicoleros.” Milenio. 05 May 2017.

Flores, Leonor. “Pide Meade acelar reformas pendientes contra robo de gasolina.” El Universal. 16 May 2017.

Hernández, Gabriela. “Puebla: enfrentamiento con ‘huachicoleros’ deja dos integrantes de Los Bukanas detenidos.” Proceso. 30 March 2017.

Molina, Héctor and Torres Rubén. “En video, presunto choque con huachicoleros.” El Economista. 10 May 2017.

Pérez, Fernando and Xicoténcatl, Fabiola. “Huachicoleros aplican su ‘gasolinazo’; incautan 50mil litros en Tabasco.” Excelsior. 14 May 2017.

Justicebarometer 2016: Perspectives on Mexico’s Criminal Justice System

04/13/17 – Justice in Mexico, a research and public policy program based at the University of San Diego, released the English version of the latest publication in the Justiciabarómetro series, Justiciabarómetro 2016- Perspectives on Mexico’s Criminal Justice System: What do its operators think?, thanks to the generous funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The 2016 Justiciabarómetro provides a comparative analysis of the justice system operators’ demographics and perspectives, as well as comparisons to similar data collected in 2010. Survey participants included 288 judges, 279 prosecutors, and 127 public defenders in 11 Mexican states, with a response rate of 56%, a 2.4% margin of error, and a 95% confidence interval.

Justicebarometer 2016

The 2016 Justiciabarómetro builds on a series of surveys that Justice in Mexico has conducted since 2009. Through collaboration with bi-national teams of judicial system experts in Mexico, these Justiciabarómetro studies are intended to generate useful indicators of judicial system capacity and performance in order to contribute to both academic research and improved public policy efforts.

Some the most relevant findings include the following:

  • The majority of the operators of all judicial system operators are male (56%), under the age of 50 (79%), and have a post-graduate degree (57%).
  • 63% of judges surveyed earn more than $30,000 pesos each month, yet 72% of prosecutors and 82% of public defenders earn less than that amount.
  • Nearly all of the operators (89%) believe the justice system needed to be reformed and that the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) has had positive effects since it began in 2008. An additional 90% think the NSJP creates greater trust in authorities, and 93% more argue it will accelerate judicial processes.
  • NSJP features are overwhelmingly well received, with roughly 95% of all operators preferring oral proceedings over previously implemented written methods, a significant increase from 2010 JABO results. Additionally, 98% prefer the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
  • The majority of respondents are in favor of the presumption of innocence (84% of judges, 76% of prosecutors, and 91% of public defenders) and believe the NSJP will help reduce corruption (80% of all operators).
  • • 96% of all judicial system operators view judges as the most effective in their work when compared with prosecutors and public defenders, and an additional 96% view judges as the trust-worthiest.
  • Despite overwhelming agreement when operators were asked if they were prepared for the NSJP’s implementation and operation (86% of judges, 93% of prosecutors, and 90% of public defenders), between 13% and 29% of operators reported having never been trained in oral litigation or alternative methods to resolve cases.
  • A concerning 48% of prosecutors, 29% of public defenders, and 13% of judges believe authorities can operate above the law to investigate and punish individuals for crimes committed.

Overall, the 2016 Justiciabarómetro provides unique perspective on the administration of Justice in Mexico from the operators of the system. As noted by Justice in Mexico Program Coordinator Octavio Rodriguez, a Mexican attorney and co-author of the study, “The survey provides a rare and penetrating look inside the Mexican criminal justice system, which traditionally has been like a ‘black box’ to outside observers.”

To read the full report, please click here:  Download

For public commentary in English or Spanish about the report or other criminal justice issues in Mexico, please contact the report’s authors directly:

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.

UNAM Law School professors and students participate in OASIS San Diego international study trip

 

OASIS San Diego participants at closing ceremony with Dr. David Shirk, UNAM Dean Raul Juan Contreras, UNAM professor and OASIS representative Trilce Ovilla, UNAM Law School graduate and OASIS field coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, and UNAM Professor Miguel Gonzaález.

OASIS San Diego participants at closing ceremony with Dr. David Shirk, Octavio Rodríguez, UNAM Dean Raul Juan Contreras, UNAM professor and OASIS representative Trilce Ovilla, UNAM Law School graduate and OASIS field coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, and UNAM Professor Miguel González.

06/24/2016 (written by msmith) – Seven faculty and three students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico Law School (UNAM) were chosen to participate in a two-week study trip to learn about the U.S. criminal justice system. Called the Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS), this study trip was made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as part of the Mérida Initiative. During their two weeks in San Diego, the UNAM visitors participated in a series of workshops with OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton as well as special sessions with Judge Chris Whitten, prosecutors Gregg McClain and José Castillo, public defenders Monique Carter and Mary Jo Barr, pretrial services officer Charlene Delgado, Judge Jeff Barton, Baja California Judge Luciano Angulo, Judge Luis Vargas, and Deputy Attorney General Anthony da Silva.

State prosecutor Gregg McClain presents to OASIS participants.

State prosecutor Gregg McClain presents to OASIS participants.

On their first official day, June 3rd, participants participated in an opening ceremony led by Dr. David Shirk (Director, Justice in Mexico), Dean Stephen Ferruolo (USD Law School) and Dean Noelle Norton (USD College of Arts and Sciences). Afterwards, participants listened to state prosecutor Gregg McClain who discussed the organization of the state prosecution system. McClain described the role of the prosecutor as well as the way the justice system is set up for transparency to give people confidence in the system. He mentioned that this transparency backfires sometimes since it allows for criticism from the public and from the media. Mr. McClain also spoke about a prosecutor’s responsibility to protect the public while also being fair to the defendant and the victim. Finally, Mr. McClain said his job was not just to put people away but to try to get to know the accused in order to determine if they are opportunistic or dangerous, driven by drugs or antisocial. Depending on the person and cause of the crime committed, Mr. McClain emphasized the broad range of sentences that can be supported by the prosecutor’s office including finishing their GED/college degree or going to a drug rehabilitation center.

Federal prosecutor José Castillo speaks to OASIS study trip participants.

Federal prosecutor José Castillo speaks to OASIS study trip participants.

Federal prosecutor Jose Castillo spoke to participants in the afternoon about the differences between the U.S. Attorney’s office and the state prosecutor’s office.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office represents the United States in federal cases, meaning they arise from federal law created by Congress. These cases are heard in federal courthouses throughout the country. State and local prosecutors (whether the district attorney, county/city prosecutor, or the state attorney general’s office), by contrast, represent the state for cases arising under state law, created by each state legislature. Occasionally, federal and state law may overlap in a certain area, allowing both federal and state prosecutors to pursue the case. Mr. Castillo also spoke about the 4th amendment (protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government), 5th amendment (protection against self-incrimination), and 6th amendment (guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you). Mr. Castillo also discussed briefly the juror system and the mandates under which jurors must operate.

On Saturday, June 4th, participants watched a specially edited version of the 1979 ABC documentary, “The Shooting of Big Man: Anatomy of a Criminal Case,” based on a Harvard law research project by Harvard Law School alum and Seattle criminal defense attorney Eric Saltzman. Professor Allen Snyder led discussions following the film focused on such topics as how the argument of self-defense was a key factor in determining the outcome of the case as well as the important role of preparing the defendant for cross-examination. Afterwards, OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton guided participants in the first of two “Train the Trainer” sessions offering insights on how to be an effective teacher of oral trial skills and give a constructive critique to students.

Charlene Delgado discusses pretrial services with OASIS study trip participants.

Charlene Delgado discusses pretrial services with OASIS study trip participants.

On June 6th, participants visited the downtown San Diego branch of the public defenders office and heard from two criminal defense attorneys, Mary Jo Barr and Monique Carter. Monique discussed the different level of crimes (infractions, misdemeanors, felonies), the process a public defender goes through with their client, as well as the life of a criminal case. Mary Jo Barr emphasized there is a misperception of the public defender’s only representing  the poorest of the poor. Instead, Ms. Barr argued it is very difficult for people to retain private council and that the public defender’s office represents over 80% of people charged with crimes- both misdemeanors and felonies.  In the afternoon, participants met with pretrial services officer Charlene Delgado.  Pretrial services help prepare cases for trial in court. The process has three functions: to collect and analyze defendant information for use in determining risk, to make recommendations to the court concerning conditions of release, and to watch defendants while being released from secure custody during the pretrial phase. The function of these services is to reduce the jail population and also help people to get back to their normal lives after being released.

On June 7th, participants visited the San Diego Superior Court and were given the opportunity to experience what reporting to jury duty is like as well as sit in on various courtroom proceedings. Participants listened to the opening statements and presentation of the People’s case for a DUI trial in Judge Majors-Lewis courtroom and also observed various witnesses called in for their testimony in relation to a murder trial in Judge O’Neill’s courtroom.  Participants also sat in on a mental health trial that focused on a sexual assault case in Judge David Gill’s room. Judge Gill also took a 20 minute recess in order to speak with the OASIS group. Participants were able to ask questions regarding his role as a judge, jury selection, as well as details about the specific case they had just heard.  In the afternoon, participants met with Judge Luis Vargas to reflect on what they had observed and ask questions.  Major topics discussed included the three strikes law in California that impacted sentencing and also limited the discretion of the judge in deciding a sentence, plea bargains and the prosecutor’s discretion in determining the plea bargain, questions during cross-examination, and objections.

Arizona Judge Chris Whitten (Maricopa County) discusses negotiations with OASIS study trip participants.

Arizona Judge Chris Whitten (Maricopa County) discusses negotiations with OASIS study trip participants.

On June 8th, participants met with Arizona civil and tax court judge Chris Whitten who took participants through a mock readiness hearing. A readiness hearing is a hearing in front of the judge with the prosecutor and defense attorney present where the parties decide if the case is going to trial, continued or some plea bargain reached. Participants also heard from Judge Whitten on the limiting amount of power judges now have when prosecutors are given so much control with the plea agreements. Participants also met with prosecutor Lisa Rodríguez who discussed alternatives to incarceration. Ms. Rodríguez spoke at length about the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 as well as Prop. 47 that took effect in 2014.  Both the Realignment Act as well as Prop. 47 transformed the criminal justice system by reducing the prison population, recidivism, and prison spending.  Prop. 47 reduces simple drug possession crimes to misdemeanors, reduces many thefts to misdemeanors, requires resentencings, and overall has redirected state prison spending to 10% to Victim Trauma Recovery Centers, 25% to K-12, and 65% for grants for mental health, substance abuse, and diversion.  Ms. Rodríguez also discussed pretrial programs including electronic monitoring in lieu of bail as well as post-sentencing custodial alternatives (county parole, home detention, residential reentry center, work furlough).

Dr. David Shirk moderates first panel of "Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico" international conference. Panelists include State supreme court justice Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), State supreme court justice Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court)

Dr. David Shirk moderates first panel of “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” international conference. Panelists include State supreme court justice Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), State supreme court justice Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court)

Participants attended “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” international conference, co-hosted by Justice in Mexico and the USD School of Law, on June 10th.  The conference consisted of opening remarks, multiple panels as well as a keynote luncheon. Opening remarks were given by Dr. David Shirk, Dean Stephen Ferruolo, and Justin Bird (vice president of Sempra Energy).  Dr. Héctor Díaz Santana, director of Inter-Institutional Coordination of the Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System’s Technical Secretariat (SETEC), inaugurated the conference by offering an overview of what brought about the reform and what have been the challenges to its implementation. The first panel, “From the Bench: Judges’ Take on Justice Reform,” was moderated by Dr. Shirk. The recurring themes included the newly acquired responsibilities of judges, the importance of training judges, and the role of the California Judges Association in allowing California judges the opportunity to collaborate with Mexican judges during this transition. Panelists included Mexican state supreme court justices Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court). The second panel, moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa, director of Corporate Ethics and Litigation, focused on the topic of anti-corruption efforts in Mexico. Panelists included Peter Ainsworth, senior anti-corruption counsel of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, associate researcher at México Evalúa, and Benjamin Hill, head of the new Specialized Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Prevention Office of the Mexican Federal Government. The last panel, “Improving the Administration of Justice,” moderated by Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Justice in Mexico program coordinator, reflected on the themes of capacity-building and training, U.S.-Mexico partnership, and institutional independence. Panelists included Miguel Sarre Inguíniz, professor at Instituto Tecnológico de México (ITAM), Ray Allan Gattinella, senior legal advisor for the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development of the Department of Justice, Luciano Angulo Espinoza, judge for the state of Baja California, and Robert Ciaffa, federal prosecutor. During the keynote luncheon, conference attendees first heard from William Ostick, U.S. consul general in Tijuana who gave some comments and introduced Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal).

UNAM Law School student Héctor García García practices oral trial techniques in a "Train the Trainer" session.

UNAM Law School student Héctor García García practices oral trial techniques in a “Train the Trainer” session.

On June 11th, participants listened to Judge Luciano Angulo reflect upon the changing role of the judge and his experiences with unique cases that demonstrate the wide range of what is brought before him and the need for the judge to especially pay attention and provide protection to the victim in some cases. During the latter part of the day, participants attended the second “Train the Trainer” session, co-led by federal prosecutor Anthony Da Silva and OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton.  The session continued to guide participants through how to give successful critiques to someone practicing oral trial techniques. Each participant presented a part of an oral trial (opening statement, direct examination by plaintiff, cross-examination by defendant’s attorney, direct examination by defendant’s attorney, closing arguments) while another participant was responsible to critique the presentation afterward. After the critique was given, Ms. Deaton or Mr. Da Silva “critiqued the critique” and offered their perspective of how to improve giving criticism.

Finally, June 13th marked the conclusion of the OASIS San Diego study trip. Closing statements were made by Dr. David Shirk and Dr. Raul Juan Contreras Bustamante, dean of the UNAM Law School.  Each emphasized the important role participants play in the future of building a successful criminal justice system in Mexico as well as the urgent need for their continued participation in teaching oral trial skills for future lawyers at UNAM.  Following these comments, participants participated in a closing ceremony where each was given a certificate recognizing their time and study trip completion. In the afternoon, Anthony Da Silva invited participants to watch his argument of an appeal by a San Diego man convicted of rape and currently serving 37 yrs to life in prison. Da Silva is representing the People in this appeal, which is focused on the court’s decision to allow a book that was in the defendant’s possession into evidence of the trial. The defendant’s attorney argues the book caused prejudicial bias and should not have been allowed in court, while Mr. Da Silva is providing the information that established and maintains that the book was rightly admitted into evidence. The argument took place before a panel of three judges and their decision is to be made within 60 days from the day the oral argument took place. Mr. Da Silva arranged for the OASIS group to meet with the prosecutor and investigator that initially worked on this trial that led to a conviction. Participants were able to not only see how an appeal argument works, but to hear from Mr. Da Silva regarding what type of work goes into the preparation for an appeal.