Mayors Targeted in Recent Homicides: Octavio Rodríguez and David Shirk share insights with Latin American Advisor

Ambrosio Soto Duarte became the mayor of Pungarabato, Guerrero in July of last year. Source: Excelsior.

Ambrosio Soto Duarte became the mayor of Pungarabato, Guerrero in July of last year. Source: Excelsior.

9/6/16 —Less than two months ago, on July 23, two of Mexico’s mayors and one vice mayor were killed in seemingly unrelated attacks. The first case is of Ambrosio Soto Duarte, Mayor of Pungarabato—a small town in Guerrero. He was allegedly killed while driving on a freeway in Michoacán when two pickup trucks stopped his car, leading to a shootout between the two parties. The shootout ultimately led to the death of Soto Duarte.

The second case occurred on the same day when Mayor of San Juan Chamula, Domingo López González and the Vice Mayor Narciso Lunes Hernández were meeting with a group of residents, when armed men shot into the crowd, ultimately killing both the mayor and vice mayor. The shootout resulted in the death of three other individuals and the injury of twelve community members.

Following the killings on July 23rd, the Mayor of Huehuetlan El Grande, José Santamaria Zavala was found dead on August 3 of last month with gunshot wounds alongside his truck, which also had visible signs of gunshots. According to El País, the truck was abandoned at a highway near his municipality in the state of Puebla and appeared to have been placed there after he was already killed.

Mayor Gisela Mota at her inauguration ceremony on January 1, 2016. Source: Associated Press.

Mayor Gisela Mota at her inauguration ceremony on January 1, 2016. Source: Associated Press.

These murders are not the only recent attacks on local elected officials. This year alone began with the murder of Mayor Gisela Mota on January 2, just hours after she was sworn in as the Mayor of Temixco, a city outside of Mexico City. In fact, it is estimated that in 2016, more than eight mayors have been murdered in Mexico. According to the National Association of Mayors in Mexico (Asociación Nacional de Alcaldes de México, ANAC), 41 active mayors, 6 elect, and 32 previous mayors have been murdered since the announcement of the Mexican War on Drugs in 2006. As a result, ANAC is now calling for the Mexican government to take active steps to protect public officials in the country.

In response, the Latin American Advisor recently asked government officials, policy experts, and scholars to share their insights on what the Mexican federal government should do to protect local officials from organized crime related attacks. The publication also asked experts to evaluate the degree to which organized criminal groups have impaired Mexico’s democratic institutions and the severity of Mexico’s situation compared to peer countries.

Octavio Rodríguez and Dr. David Shirk of the Justice in Mexico program, both experts on rule of law and security issues in Mexico, affirmed that these repeated homicides targeting local officials reveal a “concern that affects governance, threatens the democratic process, and undermines the rule of law.”

Specifically, Rodríguez and Shirk explain that although Mexico has passed numerous reforms promoting the rule of law over the past decade, impunity remains a core obstacle to the country’s democratic process. Particularly, there still exists a lack of established mechanisms backing these reforms that would allow criminals to be brought to justice or that would prevent corruption.

However, in an effort to deter such impunity and prevent the future targeting of local officials, both Rodríguez and Shirk advocate for the promotion of accountability and a sustained focus on improving judicial and security reforms. For instance, the experts note that there are currently no laws protecting public servants from violence—particularly at the local level.

Overall, Rodríguez and Shirk note that while Mexico is currently experiencing serious security challenges, overall violence is still relatively lower than in several other countries in the Western hemisphere. However, as Mexico has experienced a significant increase in the rate of homicides and organized crime over the past decade, the experts stress that the country must exhibit a “sincere commitment” to evaluation efforts and law enforcement reforms in order to see improvements.

Sources:

“Should Mexico do More to Keep its Mayors Safe? Latin America Advisor. August 5, 2016.

“Matan a un alcalde en Mexico, el tercero en menos de dos semanas.” El Comercio. August 3, 2016.

Gallegos, Zorayda. “El tercer asesinato de un alcalde en Mexico en menos de diez dias.” El País. August 2, 2016.

Schoichet, Catherine, E. “Killings of 2 Mexican Mayors Spur Call for Stepped Up Security.” CNN. July 25, 2016.

“Two Mexican Mayors Killed in Different Parts of the Country.” CNN Wire. July 24, 2016.

Griollo, Ioan. “Why Cartels are Killing Mexico’s Mayors.” New York Times. January 15, 2016.

Azuela, Maite. “Mexico el pais de los alcaldes asesinados.” El Universal. January 4, 2016.

UNAM Law School Participants Complete OASIS Boston Study Trip at Harvard Law School

OASIS Boston participants at closing ceremony with OASIS Operations Coordinator Diana Sánchez, OASIS Field Coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, Dr. David Shirk, Professor Philip Heymann, UNAM Dean Raúl Juan Contreras, and UNAM representative Miguel González.

OASIS Boston participants at closing ceremony with OASIS Operations Coordinator Diana Sánchez, OASIS Field Coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, Dr. David Shirk, Professor Philip Heymann, UNAM Dean Raúl Juan Contreras, and UNAM representative Miguel González.

7/22/16 (written by rkuckertz) —From July 4 to July 15, six faculty members and four students from the  UNAM Law School (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Facultad de Derecho) were selected to participate in the second of three study trips to the United States in order to learn about the U.S. Criminal Justice System as a part of the Oral-Adversarial Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS). This program was made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. During their visit to Boston, UNAM faculty and students had the opportunity to meet and learn from prominent public officials and legal experts in the Boston community such as former Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans, prosecutor John Capin, defense attorney and Harvard professor Andrew Crespo, DOJ Assistant Deputy Bruce Ohr, Director of the Organized Crime division for the U.S. Attorney Generals Office Cynthia Young, prosecutor Ted Merritt, District Judge Patti Saris, defense attorney Martin Weinberg, and federal prosecutor Fred M. Wyshak Jr.

With the assistance and direction of OASIS Regional Coordinator and Harvard professor Philip Heymann, each of these presenters met with the group of UNAM visitors either at Harvard Law School or at the federal courthouse in downtown Boston. Over the course of the study trip’s two weeks, Professor Heymann encouraged OASIS participants to dialogue with the presenters, providing a platform for professors and students to compare elements of the U.S. criminal justice system with the Mexican legal system and its recent implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia penal, NSJP).

The group from the UNAM Law School began the program at Harvard Law School on Tuesday, July 5 with an inauguration ceremony led by OASIS Director Dr. David Shirk, OASIS Field Coordinator Laura Calderón, and Professor Heymann. Following the inaugural ceremony, Professor Heymann hosted a screening of 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. Following the film viewing, Professor Heymann led a discussion on the elements of the criminal case depicted in the documentary.

Police Commissioner Paul Evans and Professor Phil Heymann during their discussion with participants on police investigations

Police Commissioner Paul Evans and Professor Phil Heymann during their discussion with participants on police investigations.

On Wednesday, July 6, the morning began with a group discussion on the role of the police in criminal investigations led by former Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans. Mr. Evans, who now runs a consulting firm, served as Boston’s Police Commissioner for ten years and shared many reflections on his experience with the group. Specifically, Mr. Evans identified two critical elements to a successful national police force: strong leadership within police operations and accountability to the general public. He stressed the importance of properly training incoming police officers, supplying them with the necessary equipment, and compensating police officers fairly based on their responsibilities, as these actions often contribute to a more accountable police force. Mr. Evans concluded the discussion with an analysis of an incident that occurred in 2014 in Chicago, Illinois in which a police officer fatally shot a teenager sixteen times. Mr. Evans discussed how in this case, there was a collective failure of leadership by the police and many public officials who attempted to hide the events of that evening. Mr. Evans presented this case as a counterexample to how police leadership should respond to such acts of “egregious excessive force”, stressing that the leadership’s lack of accountability in this case resulted in a heightened sense of public mistrust of the police.

In the afternoon, the group watched the film 12 Angry Men, which depicted the members of a jury deliberating following the closing argument of a murder trial. The film illustrated the role of the jury in U.S. criminal trial proceedings by demonstrating how each of the twelve jurors interpreted the evidence presented in court and how each of them came to a determination based on their individual interpretations. As Mexico’s new criminal justice system does not feature jury trials, this film presented a comparative picture of how criminal trials are decided in the United States as opposed to in Mexico’s new system. Following the film, Professor Philip Heymann initiated a discussion with the participants surrounding the process of juror selection and the role of the jury throughout the trial.

On Thursday, July 7, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin spoke to the group regarding the role of the prosecution in U.S. criminal cases. Mr. Capin separated the prosecution’s role into four specific areas—investigation, accusation, trial, and appeals. He first explained the distinction between cases that begin with the detention of the accused and cases that begin without detention. Mr. Capin then explained the role of the prosecutor in determining the charges brought against the accused. Specifically, the prosecutor often possesses a wide range of discretion in selecting the charges that will be brought against the defendant. However, as Mr. Capin clarifies, the majority of these cases will not be brought to trial; instead, approximately 97% of cases are decided by negotiated settlements between the prosecution and the defense. The group then engaged in a brief discussion regarding the role of the prosecutor in the trial and the subsequent appeals process, after which Mr. Capin answered the group’s various questions concerning the prosecution’s role in negotiated settlements and the trial.

In the afternoon session, Program Coordinator Octavio Rodríguez presented Justice in Mexico’s past publications and various ongoing projects. He described the mission of Justice in Mexico and the origins of the OASIS program, which is made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department as part of the Mérida Initiative.

Harvard professor and attorney Andrew Crespo addresses OASIS participants during his presentation on the role of the defense.

Harvard professor and attorney Andrew Crespo addresses OASIS participants during his presentation on the role of the defense.

On Friday, July 8, Harvard professor and defense attorney Andrew Crespo presented to the group of UNAM professors and students regarding the role of the defense. He initiated the discussion with an overview of the United States federal system, distinguishing the local, state and federal legal systems as independent entities with separate corresponding legal processes. Professor Crespo then discussed the landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which established the accused’s right to legal representation. Professor Crespo also elaborated on the defense attorney’s role in representing the accused. Specifically, he emphasized that it is the defense attorney’s responsibility to provide a “holistic defense” to the client, taking into account all sociological factors—such as mental health and socioeconomic status—that may assist the defense attorney in understanding the client. Professor Crespo concluded with an overview of the defense attorney’s role throughout the legal process, from the initial meeting with the client to the trial and subsequent sentence.

The second week of the program began with a presentation by Program Coordinator Octavio Rodríguez on the results of a new survey administered by Justice in Mexico’s Justiciabarómetro project. One of the primary objectives of this project is to “take the pulse” of Mexico’s justice system through surveys of its judicial operators. As Mr. Rodríguez explained to the group, this most recent study was made possible by a research grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The survey, implemented over the course of several months from April to June 2016, sought to determine the perceptions of judges, public defenders, public prosecutors, and other judicial actors of the current judicial system. Mr. Rodríguez shared some of the initial results of the study, noting that 89% of those surveyed considered themselves prepared to work within the new judicial system. He also shared that 50% of survey participants reported employing alternative solutions, such as mediation and negotiation, rather than litigation in a trial setting. However, Mr. Rodríguez shared that this figure must reach at least 90% in order for the new judicial system to be completely functional.

Following Mr. Rodríguez’s presentation, Catherine Peshkin of the Harvard Law School LLM Office visited the group in order to discuss requirements for admission into Harvard’s LLM program for foreign lawyers. Following Ms. Peshkin’s presentation, Assistant Deputy Bruce Ohr of the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed his role in overseeing the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). Specifically, he explained that the OCDETF does not deal directly with criminal cases. Instead, this task force provides funding to various agencies such as the DEA and FBI in order to allow them to investigate large organized crime cases and to collaborate with other agencies, including the DOJ. Mr. Ohr continued by elaborating on the various ways in which the United States and Mexico engage in intelligence sharing and collaborative efforts in order to investigate criminal cases related to organized crime. He also discussed how the NSJP will impact this ongoing collaboration, referencing various investigative processes and bilateral policies. Mr. Ohr concluded by asking OASIS participants to reflect on how they have been trained for the judicial reform and how this training has impacted their work.

Director of the Organized Crime division for the U.S. Attorney General's Office Cynthia Young discusses organized crime investigations with the group.

Director of the Organized Crime division for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office Cynthia Young discusses organized crime investigations with the group.

The following morning, on July 12, participants met with Cynthia Young, the Director of the Organized Crime division for the U.S. Attorney General. Ms. Young started the day with a discussion of organized crime in Mexico. She discussed the origins of drug cartels in Mexico and how the cartels’ modus operandi has shifted as a result of local disputes. Ms. Young then presented a comparative picture of organized crime in the United States, examining its origins and evolution throughout the twentieth century and into the modern era. She concluded by discussing how the federal government typically investigates and prosecutes such crimes.

In the afternoon, the group listened to a presentation by prosecutor Ted Merritt regarding the prosecution of police charged with abusing their authority in the United States. Mr. Merritt opened the dialogue by explaining the divide that exists with regard to public perception of police.  While the majority of white, middle-class Americans believe the police to be trustworthy, this is not the case for Black Americans. He also referenced recent events that have sparked national controversy, such as the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, and the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago, in order to explain how a lack of leadership and proper accountability in the police force often lead to violations of constitutional civil liberties. Mr. Merritt also elaborated upon the prosecution of such cases, discussing how they are brought to trial and the manner in which they are prosecuted. Following the presentation, Professor Heymann initiated a discussion regarding police abuse in Mexico and how it is handled under the law. Participants furthered the dialogue by discussing how the NSJP reforms seek to improve training programs for police officers and the general professionalization of the police force in Mexico.

UNAM Professor Christopher Pastrana Cortés shares his insights with the group.

UNAM Professor Christopher Pastrana Cortés shares his insights with the group.

On the morning of July 13, participants traveled to the federal courthouse in downtown Boston in order to attend a sentencing hearing. Immediately after, Chief U.S. District Judge and Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission Patti Saris spoke to the group about federal sentencing in the United States, explaining that sentencing guidelines are primarily linked to mandatory minimum sentences for the corresponding crime. From there, the judge takes an incremental approach to sentencing, taking into account all crimes that were committed and their individual sentences to create a single sentence. For instance, as federal sentencing guidelines employ a tiered point system with each crime corresponding to a unique number of points, the man being sentenced at the hearing received a 2-point deduction for pleading guilty to his crimes, but he failed to receive a 3-point deduction because he ran away and subsequently committed further crimes. As a result, Judge Saris determined the final sentence based on a figure that accounted for each of these circumstances.

Following the sentencing hearing, defense attorneys Martin Weinberg and Robert Goldstein attended a lunch session with the group, providing background on the motion to suppress hearing that the group would witness in the afternoon as a part of a tax evasion case. Specifically, Mr. Weinberg’s primary objective as the defendant’s attorney was to invalidate the affidavit that several informants had submitted, citing several mistakes of fact within the affidavit and emphasizing the informants’ vested interest in the outcome of the case.

UNAM Law School student Brandon Reyes Salinas practices oral trial skills during “Train the Trainer”.

UNAM Law School student Brandon Reyes Salinas practices oral trial skills during “Train the Trainer”.

On July 14, OASIS Training Director Janice Deaton visited the group at Harvard Law School in order to lead a “Train the Trainer” session on teaching oral trial skills. Ms. Deaton guided the participants through the training, allowing each individual to present a section of an oral trial to a partner (opening statement, direct examination by plaintiff, cross-examination by defendant’s attorney, direct examination by defendant’s attorney, closing arguments) while another participant practiced offering effective critiques to the other.

Following Ms. Deaton’s training session, federal prosecutor Fred M. Wyshak Jr. visited the group in order to discuss how corruption cases are investigated and prosecuted in the federal justice system. Specifically, Mr. Wyshak discussed the importance of criminal informants in investigating crimes of corruption and how prosecutors use this intelligence to build a criminal case. He also described the various challenges that the government faces in investigating corruption cases.

On July 15, the last day of the OASIS Boston Study Trip, UNAM faculty and students participated in the official closing ceremony at the Harvard Law School. In attendance were OASIS Director Dr. David Shirk, as well as UNAM Law School representative Miguel González and UNAM Law School Dean Dr. Raúl Juan Contreras Bustamante. Each addressed the group, emphasizing the crucial role that the participants play in contributing to the future of Mexico’s transitioning judicial system. UNAM representatives Mr. González and Dr. Contreras also highlighted the importance of the ongoing collaboration between the United States and Mexico, especially in the context of Mexico’s judicial reform. Immediately following these comments, each participant was personally congratulated by OASIS and UNAM representatives and presented with a certificate of completion for their successful participation in the two-week study trip.

Justice in Mexico and USD School of Law co-host International Conference on Mexico’s Judicial Reform Efforts

6/24/16 (written by ncortes) – On June 10th, Justice in Mexico co-hosted “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” International Conference with USD’s School of Law at the Hahn University Forums on campus. Approximately 100 students, faculty, legal professionals, and government officials from both sides of the border attended the international conference on Mexico’s judicial reform efforts just one week prior to the official full implementation deadline of the judicial reform.

The audience was welcomed by the heads of the organizations that made the conference possible: Dr. David Shirk, director of Justice in Mexico, Dr. Stephen Ferruolo, dean of the School of Law, and Justin Bird, vice president of Sempra Energy. In his brief opening address, Dr. David Shirk emphasized the critical time at which the conference was taking place: the conclusion of an eight-year process to reform Mexico’s justice system.

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 the current challenges to its full implementation. Dr. Díaz Santana observed that the late publication of the national criminal procedural code, the lack of funding, and the tendency to procrastinate created a crisis that demanded renewed attention as the deadline approached. The government had to come up with clear plans, funding, and new indicators for evaluation. Moreover, the federal government had to acquire new technologies for investigation and help reluctant state governments assimilate to the inevitability of change. According to Dr. Díaz, there are still many issues that remain unresolved, including updating law school curriculums and informing the public. In his view, even though the implementation phase will be over by June 18, the system will need to continue to make adjustments over the long term.

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)

Following Dr. Díaz Santana’s reflections on Mexico’s justice reform efforts was the panel “From the Bench: Judges’ Take on Justice Reform,” moderated by Dr. Shirk. The recurring themes included newly acquired responsibilities of judges, the importance of training judges, and the United States’ partner role in this transition. Pablo Héctor González Villalobos, state court justice in Chihuahua, discussed how the reform redefined the job of judges. In the past, a judge’s duty was to serve as an instrument to apply the law while oral trials now demand judges have a more dignified role as interpreters of the law. For him, this is a radical change not often spoken of but that nonetheless carries important consequences, such as the need to implement safeguards that guarantee the impartiality of judges. Alejandro González Gómez, state court justice of Michoacán, drew attention to the absence of an established procedure that outlines the process of appeals in the new system. He recommended training programs and clearly defining the appeals process under the new system.

Judges from the United States complemented the discussion by sharing their observations and recommendations. Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court) shared her experience participating in a successful program implemented by the California Judges Association (CJA) that allowed for judge-to-judge interactions between U.S. judges and their Mexican counterparts. As an advocate of judge-to-judge training, she invited Mexican judges to visit California where judges are willing to take their commitment to the next level. Hon. Runston “Tony” Maino (San Diego Superior Court) pointed to the magnitude of the transformation required under the new system to emphasize that change will take time and that one should not be discouraged. He also mentioned the importance of having more individuals buy into the change in order for the change to become real.

Anti-corruption panel moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa. Panelists include Peter Ainsworth, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, and Benjamin Hill

Anti-corruption panel moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa. Panelists include Peter Ainsworth, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, and Benjamin Hill

The next panel, moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa, director of Corporate Ethics and Litigations at IEnova, focused on anti-corruption efforts in Mexico. Panel themes included the importance of prosecutorial independence, recent changes in the law, and future hopes to reduce corruption and impunity. Peter Ainsworth, senior anti-corruption counsel of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division emphasized the importance of having the tools, ability, capacity, and most importantly prosecutorial independence in order to fight corruption. In his view, people need to be able to bring cases against their bosses. Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, associate researcher at México Evalúa, observed that public pressure is pushing the Mexican government to deal with corruption, which has resulted in new legislation. However, much work is required to implement the new laws at the state level. Dr. Fernández drew attention to the great level of impunity in Mexico and noted that unfortunately, “patrimonialism continues to be the name of the game.”

Benjamin Hill, head of the new Specialized Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Prevention Office of the Mexican Federal Government was hopeful about Mexico’s prospects to change. He observed that while the reactions to political scandals have usually been cosmetic in the past, there are signs that this time around is different. In addition to having a working democracy and a stronger civil society aided by social media, he noted that there is now a more robust body of knowledge on corruption from which Mexico can benefit. In terms of conflict of interest, he observed it is a difficult one to discuss in a society where it is often considered a moral obligation to help one’s relatives. Mr. Rios added that sometimes individuals are not aware of what conflict of interest entails and thus it is important to have an ongoing conversation that engages civil society.

Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal) gives his keynote luncheon address.

Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal) gives his keynote luncheon address.

During the luncheon that followed, the audience first heard from William Ostick, U.S. consul general in Tijuana. Mr. Ostick said Mexico’s effort to reform its judicial system required a generational change and reiterated the United States’ willingness to be Mexico’s partner in that process. Mr. Ostick also introduced keynote speaker Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal). He outlined five procedural changes that resulted from the reform: investigation, chain of custody, writing vs. oral, preventive detention, and alternative solutions. Dr. Pérez concluded that Mexico is facing one of the most important changes in its legal history and hopes the reform will improve the criminal justice system by shortening trial times and achieving victims’ restitution. According to Dr. Pérez, “the new criminal system is not a panacea, nor will it bring an end to crime, corruption, and injustice, but I am sure it is a better system than what we have already.”

Professor Miguel Sarre speaks to conference attendees about impunity and the prison system in Mexico.

Professor Miguel Sarre speaks to conference attendees about impunity and the prison system in Mexico.

As an introduction to the last panel “Improving the Administration of Justice,” Miguel Sarre Iguíniz, professor at the Instituto Tecnológico de México, gave a brief commentary on impunity, human rights, and the prison system in Mexico. To illustrate the prevalence of impunity in Mexico, he observed that only 0.49% of criminal cases are actually reported to and investigated by authorities. Moreover, he noted the number of crimes propitiated by the government in Mexico City alone is higher than the number of crimes handled by the justice system at the national level. According to Professor Sarre, 40,000 detainees in Mexico City are forced to pay a quota three times a day in order to avoid abuses. Subsequently, there are 120,000 daily extortion cases that result from the system itself. Mr. Sarre emphasized the importance of taking into account human rights in the prison system.

Octavio Rodríguez, Justice in Mexico program coordinator, moderated the last panel in which capacity building and training, U.S.-Mexico partnership, and institutional independence were recurring themes. Ray Allan Gattinella, senior legal advisor for the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development of the Department of Justice observed that capacity building and training along with the professionalization of the police are the most important tasks to improve the administration of justice. Mr. Gattinella also noted the lack of institutional stability and an accreditation system for Mexican law schools may hinder progress.

Octavio Rodríguez moderates panel on improving the administration of justice in Mexico. Panelists include Ray Allen Gattinella, Judge Luciano Angulo, and Robert Ciaffa.

Octavio Rodríguez moderates panel on improving the administration of justice in Mexico. Panelists include Ray Allen Gattinella, Judge Luciano Angulo, and Robert Ciaffa.

Luciano Angulo Espinoza, judge in the state of Baja California, observed the importance of receiving ongoing training. He described his personal experience of having training discontinued at a moment were it was very much needed. Judge Angulo reflected on the importance of having an independent judiciary as well as job security in order to improve the administration of justice. He mentioned that Baja California judges are ratified every five years, which hurts judges’ independence. Robert Ciaffa, federal prosecutor pointed out that Mexico will not be the only beneficiary of the efforts made to improve the administration of justice. He observed that currently there are many barriers, including lack of trust, that prevent U.S. prosecutors from collaborating with their Mexican counterparts. He observed that while Mexico and U.S. share common targets, many times this results in competition instead of collaboration. In Mr. Ciaffa’s words, “we strive for the day when we can recognize each other’s orders.”

Dr. David Shirk gives closing remarks to conference.

Dr. David Shirk gives closing remarks to conference.

To conclude, Dr. Shirk offered his reflections regarding the outcomes of the conference. The conference will inform an upcoming Justice in Mexico report on judicial reforms and serve as a step towards further collaboration with UNAM, where Justice in Mexico will cohost a similar event September 8-9 to continue the conversation. Dr. Shirk also announced the creation of an anti-corruption course within the USD Master of Arts in International Relations and the School of Law that will hopefully attract both USD students and members of the legal community. The final and perhaps most important deliverable is the knowledge, hope, and optimism that all attendees take with them following the conference. According to Dr. Shirk, “all of us should look at this new system as an opportunity to improve the rule of law and the administration of justice in Mexico. All of us are part and responsible for helping achieve better results moving forward.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems in Mexico City

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

10/12/15 (written by rkuckertz) – September 24-25, Justice in Mexico’s Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) co-hosted the International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems with the Law School of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City on UNAM’s law school campus. In an impressive turnout, over 700 students, faculty, and local community members and officials attended the two-day symposium on the progress and goals of Mexico’s comprehensive justice reform.

The symposium served as the conclusion to OASIS’s year-long training and education program. Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, OASIS sponsored training courses in oral adversarial litigation skills in Mexico City as well as visits to various cities in the United States where participants observed how the U.S. justice system operates. The UNAM symposium evaluated the success of OASIS’s activities and the justice reform in general while also identifying future training and infastructure needs in order to maintain the reform’s growing momentum across Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District.

Mexican Supreme Court Justice Ministro Alberto Pérez Dayán was first to speak on Mexico’s justice reform following the symposium’s introduction on Thursday evening. Ministro Pérez Dayán outlined the various challenges that remained in regards to the new justice system’s implementation. He noted that courts would first have to name competent judges and justice system participants as well as provide continuous training for these actors. Furthermore, he spoke of a “cultural change” which must occur in order for the reform to be successful. He explained that must be a clear “before” and “after” in regards to the reform; courtroom technology must be modernized, courts must learn to move from a document system to an oral system, and all actors within the justice system must adhere to strict rules and guidelines that allow the system to operate in a consistent fashion across the country.

The second panel of the night focused on the states’ remaining challenges in regards to the new justice system’s full implementation. State supreme court justice José Miguel Salcido Romero of Chihuahua opened the panel by expressing the importance of relying on police investigation and the proper collection of evidence in order to reach a case verdict. He explained that previously, Mexican courts had relied heavily on confessions in the courtroom, causing police investigation and the processing of forensic evidence to take a backseat throughout the adjudication process. State supreme court justice Apolonio Betancourt Ruíz of Durango continued the discussion by asking the question, “what does society want?” He elaborated by stressing that current Mexican society is demanding justice and that this should be the “grand mission” of every courtroom judge rather than the mechanical application of written laws.

State supreme court justice Alejandro González of Michoacán furthered the dialogue on the states’ remaining challenges by addressing the problem of infrastructure. He highlighted the importance of having adequate courtroom facilities and outlined several ongoing and completed projects in Michoacán. He also spoke to the significance of national cooperation throughout the reform process, prompting the audience to consider if the reform would become a national dialogue or “a jurisprudential Tower of Babel.” State supreme court justice Jorge Ignacio Pérez Castañeda of Baja California concluded the panel with a discussion of the quantity and quality of personnel needed to operate within the new justice system. He specifically focused on the role of municipal police, explaining that because these officers are the first point of contact between citizens and the new penal system, their continued training on the new system should be a priority for Mexican states.

The symposium’s second day began with a panel discussion dedicated to the training processes necessary for the new justice system’s full implementation. Dr. María Candelaria Pelayo Torres, Director of the Judiciary Institute of Baja California (Instituto de la Judicatura de Baja California), opened the dialogue with an emphasis on the academic nature of the reform. She noted that the entire law education system requires a transformation in order for future lawyers and judicial operators to have an adequate understanding of how their roles will change in the new justice system. As a result, she explained that there is a high demand for outstanding academic institutions that have the resources and instructors to provide adequate training in the new language of oral adversarial litigation.

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

San Diego defense attorney and OASIS Principal Instructor Janice Deaton elaborated on effective training methods and reflected on her instruction experiences with the OASIS program. She stressed that all training programs should employ the model of “learning by doing” in order to teach their participants how to effectively utilize oral adversarial litigation skills in a courtroom. Dr. Dan Schneider of American University expanded upon this notion by encouraging lawyers not to be passive participants in the justice system, but its main actors. He also reflected upon his experience with the OASIS training program, explaining that its participants had the opportunity to observe the strategy and thinking of the lawyers in a vehicular homicide court case in Maryland. He referred to the practice of law as “an art” which involves critical thinking, social skills, and an eagerness to challenge authority. Dr. David Fernández Mena, Coordinator of an American Bar Association Rule of Law Initative(ABA-ROLI) program, explained how he and his organization are working to transform the practice of law throughout Mexico. Through his ABA-ROLI program, Dr. Fernández Mena trains professors and universities on how to teach law in the context of the new justice reform. He stressed that efforts such as these are imperative, as there are currently no official accreditation or training systems for university professors to teach law as it will be practiced under the reform.

Friday’s second panel included several UNAM law professors who compared their experiences with the justice system in Mexico and in the United States. Professor Julieta Lara Luna began the panel with a comparison of the treatment of victims in both legal systems. She maintained that the new justice system should be devoted to the promotion of human rights. Dr. Tito Armando Granados Carrión continued with this theme, emphasizing the “human side” of the justice system. Dr. Granados Carrión expressed that the justice reform “offers the opportunity to humanize the justice system and its citizens.”

The panel discussion continued with several insightful comparisons of the U.S. and Mexican legal systems. Professor Miroslava Pineda Zúñiga made the observation that many Mexicans do not consider the U.S. justice system to be the “final goal” for Mexico due to the manner in which it is portrayed in the media. However, she noted that the U.S. system is principally based on the use of logic and critical reasoning, which is what the Mexican justice system should choose to emulate. She also conveyed the importance of citizen participation and trust in the system, which she claimed would improve its credibility. Dr. Alberto del Castillo del Valle added to this comparison by highlighting the similarities of the U.S. and Mexican constitutions. He specifically focused on the “forgotten” role of rights or guarantees, which are present in both documents. He concluded by emphasizing that these guarantees should be respected within the new system. Professor Eduardo Alonso Domínguez highlighted the use of mediation as a form of case resolution within the United States. He reminded the audience that ninety percent of U.S. cases are resolved through agreements between the plaintiff and the defense as opposed to oral trials. He applied this principle to the Mexican justice system, declaring that negotiation will be an essential process to the effective resolution of cases. Professor Ignacio Hernández Orduña concluded the panel with a discussion of the specific procedures employed by both the U.S. and Mexican legal systems.

The third panel of the day was dedicated to the measurement and evaluation of the justice reform’s implementation. Dr. David Shirk, professor at the University of San Diego and the Principal Investigator for Justice in Mexico, began the panel discussion by describing the context in which the justice reform began and how Justice in Mexico has worked to support this reform. He also emphasized the importance of “taking the pulse” of the new justice system’s performance through methods of regular evaluation.  Dr. Matthew Ingram, professor at State University of New York at Albany, expanded upon these methods by presenting his findings on the three factors affecting the diffusion of the reform across the Mexican states. He explained that the principal mechanisms moving the reform were federal instruction, political party ties across the states, and geographic networks between states. Professor Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Justice in Mexico’s Project Coordinator, concluded the panel with a discussion of Justiciabarómetro, a research initiative through Justice in Mexico that evaluates levels of professional development of actors within Mexico’s justice system as well as the perceptions of these actors regarding the functionality of the justice system. All three panelists agreed that recent research has only provided a minimal analysis of the current status of the justice reform and that there is a great need for more accurate measurements and indicators of the new system’s performance.

Dr. Maria de los Angeles Fromow

Dr. Maria de los Angeles Fromow presents at the international OASIS symposium

The symposium’s final conference included a lecture by the renowned Dr. María de los Ángeles Fromow, Technical Secretariat of the Coordinating Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System of the Ministry of the Interior. Dr. Fromow shared many insights into the implementation of the new justice system, reminding the audience that six Mexican states have already achieved full implementation and sixty-two percent of the population is currently operating under the new system. She noted the importance of both political and economic will in the implementation process. Dr. Fromow was joined on stage by Dr. María Leoba Castañeda Rivas, the Director of UNAM’s law school and a respected collaborator of Justice in Mexico’s OASIS project.

The symposium was a monumental success, presenting a thorough picture of the justice reform’s past successes and remaining challenges moving forward. Justice in Mexico would like to thank all of the symposium’s panelists and moderators, UNAM’s law school, its faculty, and its director, Dr. María Leoba Castañeda Rivas for their dedicated collaboration and commitment to justice reform in Mexico.