Justice in Mexico Completes Second OASIS Study Trip

7/18/2018 (written by Quinn Skerlos)- From July 2 to July 14, Justice in Mexico held the second 2018 Oral-Adversary Skill-building Immersion (OASIS) Study trip at University of San Diego (USD). The participants were 13 administrators, students, and law faculty from the Universidad de Guadalajara (UdeG), and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL), and Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP). The OASIS study trippers were primarily composed of 12 law professors and law students from UdeG and UANL, but also included the Director of BUAP’s School of Law and Social Sciences, Luis Ochoa Bilbao. Now the eleventh OASIS study trip implemented by Justice in Mexico, these study trips provide a cultural immersion and study opportunity for selected Mexican law professors and students to experience the United States criminal justice system and meet with relevant legal experts, academics and public officials, including judges, professors, and attorneys. This program is made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs under the Mérida Initiative.

With the direction of OASIS Training Director, Janice Deaton, and OASIS Regional Director and USD law professor, Allen Snyder, the OASIS study trip participants attended a variety of lectures given by legal experts and academics, toured various facilities relevant to the United States criminal justice system, and engaged in group discussions guided by Janice Deaton and/or Allen Snyder. The majority of the study trip was held in San Diego at USD, however, participants also had the opportunity to visit San Francisco and meet with several public officials and representatives of the San Francisco community.

OASIS participants have the opportunity to meet and engage with various members of the legal community, including judges, attorneys, and law professors.

OASIS participants have the opportunity to meet and engage with various members of the legal community, including judges, attorneys, and law professors.

In San Diego, agenda highlights included: site visits to the San Dan Diego State and Federal Court, a tour of the San Diego Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), a mock-trial simulation, and lectures led by legal professionals from the Public Defender’s Office, Office of the Attorney General, Pre-trial Services, etc. In San Francisco, participants visited and met with members of the Ninth Circuit Court and the San Francisco Superior Court, and toured the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a historical landmark and former high-security prison. Overall, the trip focused on providing analysis of the U.S. criminal justice system, and reinforcing the theory behind and practice of oral, adversarial and accusatorial criminal justice systems. This focus is intended to promote the participants’ appreciation for judicial reform in Mexico and reflect positively in their forthcoming academic and professional trajectories.

The program agenda’s accomplished guest speakers included: Allen Snyder (USD), Associate Dean Margaret Dalton (USD), Gregg McClain (Office of the District Attorney, San Diego), Scarlet Espinoza (Ninth Circuit Court, San Francisco), Judge Gerardo Sandoval (San Francisco Superior Court), Maria Elena Lopez Evangelista (Office of the Public Defender, San Francisco),  George Gascon (District Attorney of San Francisco), Judge Christopher Whitten (Superior Court of Maricopa County), Tony Da Silva (Office of the Attorney General, San Diego), Theresa Talplacido (San Diego MCC), Judge John Houston (District Judge for the Southern District of California), Janice Deaton (USD), Monique Carter (Office of the Public Defender, San Diego), Scott Pirrello (San Diego District Attorney’s Office), and Veronica Cataño Gonzalez (Supreme Court of Baja California).

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OASIS International Study Trip in San Diego

OASIS_Sandiego7

OASIS San Diego participants (University of San Diego)

08/28/2015 (written by msmith) – Eight faculty and five students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Law School were chosen to participate in a two-week study trip to learn about the U.S. criminal justice system. Called the Justice in Mexico 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 as part of the Mérida Initiative. During their two weeks in San Diego, the UNAM visitors participated in a series of workshops with USD law professor Allen Snyder as well as special sessions with trial judge Chris Whitten, prosecutor Gregg McClain, criminal defense attorney Ezekiel Cortez, private investigator Juan Lopez, Judge David Danielson, and Deputy Attorney General Anthony da Silva.

On the first day, participants toured University of San Diego and 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. 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. There are two parts of self-defense, the defense had to prove that the defendant was actually afraid and that it was reasonable. Professor Snyder emphasized how the defense attorneys had to also connect with the jury on an emotional level and not just an intellectual level to make sure they could understand how the defendant felt during the incident. Another important discussion that came from watching the film was the question why is the judge not the expert of the law rather than the jury? Professor Snyder’s response was, If Jack Jones, the defendant, was afraid, what expertise does a person need to have to understand that fear? As Professor Snyder explained there is also a downside of expertise when judges start lumping together all criminal defendants because they have seen so many cases.

State prosecutor Gregg McClain discussed with participants the organization of the state prosecution system. McClain described the role of the prosecutor as being the person who decides if the great weight of the state should come down on a person accused of a crime. What matters to the prosecutor is the evidence and therefore the duty to investigate is of the highest importance. The danger of young lawyers is whether the state must punish someone to the maximum. McClain tries to show young lawyers the larger picture and look at what is right, what is justice in each particular case. Thus, for McClain, taking special attention to look at whether the defendant is opportunistic or dangerous, drug driven or antisocial, and asking the questions can the defendant be convinced not to commit crimes, if he wants rehabilitation, education, whether he is employable should also play an important role in the prosecutors sentences.

OASIS San Diego participants meet with Anthony Da Silva

OASIS San Diego participants meet with Anthony Da Silva

The OASIS participants visited the California Attorney General’s office in downtown San Diego. Participants met with several attorneys, beginning with Anthony DaSilva. Mr. DaSilva spoke to participants regarding the appellate process. He discussed the appellate briefs; what needs to be included in the briefs; time limits, and oral arguments. Oral arguments are held in San Diego in front of the Fourth Appellate District of California, and most argument last from ten to fifteen minutes per side.

The appellate court relies on the criminal codes, laws, and case precedent when deciding the case. They hear arguments and read the briefs. After the oral argument, they have 90 days to render their decision in the form of a written opinion (published) or a memorandum (not published). Following the decision of the appellate court, a litigant may appeal to the Supreme Court of California.

Mr. DaSilva also discussed the death penalty. These cases have automatic appeal to the Supreme Court, and begin with the appellate courts. They are very backlogged, up to twenty years in the Federal Circuits. Mr. DaSilva explained which cases can be charged with the death penalty.   He also explained the victims’ families may be present for the execution, and in California it is done with lethal injection. Finally Mr. DaSilva spoke regarding habeas corpus. The participants were very interested in this mechanism, as there is a similar one in Mexico called “Amparo.” The grounds for habeas corpus are a violation of Constitutional rights during the criminal proceedings, ineffective assistance of counsel, or insufficient evidence for a conviction.

Participants also met with criminal defense attorney Ezekiel Cortez, and attorney Janice Deaton’s private investigator Juan Antonio Lopez. Janice Deaton is also a criminal defense attorney. Mr. Cortez is a past representative for the Criminal Justice Act attorneys with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He spoke with the group regarding the realities faced by criminal defendants in federal court, the plea bargaining system and the sentencing structure in American courts. Mr. Cortez answered questions regarding any differences in penalties and sentenced imposed upon defendants who choose to go to trial and those who plead guilty. He also addressed oral trial training efforts both within the United States and throughout Latin America. Licensed private investigator Juan Lopez gave a brief introduction about defense investigation in criminal cases, about the licensing requirements for investigators, and about subpoena powers enjoyed by the defense in criminal cases. He was asked about international investigations and what type of subpoena powers he has in, for example, Mexico. Mr. Lopez and Ms. Deaton discussed common issues that arise in investigating cases for trial.

OASIS San Diego participants with Judge Danielsen

OASIS San Diego participants with Judge Danielsen

Judge David Danielsen and participants met in the Hall of Justice Court House downtown courtroom where Judge Danielsen discussed the history of modern sentencing and the problems with our US criminal justice system. He discussed prison overcrowding and the fact that California has only 10 University of California campuses while it has 33 prisons. He also talked about how poor people have to represent themselves so he asked how do we deliver justice to people who can’t afford it. Judge Danielsen also mentioned racism as a major problem in this country and the disproportionate number of people of color coming before the criminal courts.

Following this discussion, participants attended a moot court of an appellate oral argument, sponsored by the Federal Bar Association at the San Diego Federal Courthouse. United States District Court Judges John A. Houston, Marilyn L. Huff, and Ninth Circuit Judge Owens presided over an oral argument regarding the Voting Rights Act. The moot court was held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

On the participant’s last day, Arizona civil and tax court judge Chris Whitten 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. According to Judge Whitten, there is no check on the prosecutor and that if a judge does not agree to a plea agreement, the prosecutor will go to another judge. In Judge Whitten’s words, the judge’s hands are bound by their plea agreements. A judge is supposed to have discretion but in our current system discretion is removed and given to the prosecutor because of plea agreements.

Dr. David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico and Associate Professor in Political Science at University of San Diego, made closing comments about the OASIS initiative and the significance of thinking long term with reasonable expectations when contemplating judicial reform in Mexico. Participants participated in a closing ceremony with Dr. Shirk, UNAM law professor Jacqueline Zenteno Hernandez, UNAM law professor Maria de Lourdes Chamol Rodriguez, Judge Chris Whitten, Professor Allen Snyder and Mr. Octavio Rodriguez where participants were given their certificates of participation.