02/01/15 (written by cmolzahn) — Beginning Friday, January 16, the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF) implemented its new justice reform package, which ushers in oral trials for non-federal crimes (fuero común) considered to be non-serious (no graves). The change, which comes as part of the 2008 federal judicial reforms that mandate that all Mexican states and the DF transition to an accusatorial justice system by June 2016, is intended to streamline the justice system and reduce backlogs, while ensuring the rights of all parties involved and the transparency of the judicial process. The new process will apply only to alleged crimes committed on or after January 16.
When there exists an alleged crime with such classification, which would include property damage, breaking and entering, and sexual harassment, both parties will attempt to reach a resolution via mediation for payment of reparations. If this is not possible, the case will then go to trial, where both parties will present their cases orally and a judge will issue a sentence. To date, 38 judges have been trained to begin oral trials proceedings in the DF. Moreover, the DF Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal, PGJDF) announced the creation of a special litigation office (Fiscalía de Litigación), which will employ 40 facilitators who will intervene in the early stages of the investigation to help streamline the process.
Implementation of the reforms for all states as well as the DF requires a substantial investment, including the construction of new courtrooms, training personnel from police officers up to judges, as well as those working in the DF penitentiary system. That said, the Federal District is on par with some of the slower states in implementing the federally mandated reforms, thus officials there have been quite vocal in touting the recent implementation. Authorities say that serious crimes (delitos graves) will be folded into the new system in the middle of the current year.
As of January 20, there were 161 preliminary investigations (carpetas de investigación) and 38 mediation proceedings open in the DF, according to DF Attorney General Rodolfo Ríos. He added that three mediation agreements had been reached, and that more were expected. On January 28, the DF saw its first oral hearing, a case against a man charged with negligent homicide (homicidio culposo agravado), who had struck three cyclists with his car three days earlier, killing one. Dozens were in attendance to witness the trial, including the chief justice of the DF Superior Court (Tribunal Superior de Justicia del DF), Edgar Elías Azar, and DF Mayor (jefe de gobierno) Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa. The hearing lasted about an hour, and the defendant was ordered released with bail, pending his eventual trial.