States advance in the implementation of oral trials

Oral trials in Mexico. Image: Impacto.mx

Oral trials in Mexico. Image: Impacto.mx

06/30/2015 (written by rkuckertz) – States advance in the implementation of oral trials. According to recently released data, most Mexican states keep progressing in the implementation of oral trials and their overall transition to the New  Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). Oaxaca  in particular has advanced over the past several years in its implementation,  jumping between 2013 and 2014 from 13th to 8th on the national rankings  comparing the degree of implementation of NSJP.

 

Monitoring Implementation of Oral Trials in Mexico

The Center for Investigation of Development (Centro de Investigación para  el Desarrollo, CIDAC), an independent think tank that presents proposals to further the development of Mexico’s rule of law, recently released data on the 2014 year that demonstrate the state’s progress. CIDAC evaluates each of the thirty-two states on a 1,000-point scale, where 1,000 points represents full implementation and 530 points is the intermediate goal. On this scale, Oaxaca accumulated 387 points prior to 2015–a notable achievement for the southern state, placing it above states such as Durango, Sinaloa, Morelos, Chiapas, and Veracruz.

Various groups have been working to increase the accessibility of this information to the public. Among them, Justice Project (Proyecto Justicia) has published virtual, interactive maps and graphs based on CIDAC’s reports. These graphics illustrate the progress achieved by each state and federal institution. At first glance, Chihuahua, Baja California, and Guanajuato are the high achievers on CIDAC’s 1,000-point evaluation scale, each state rising above the standard 530-point mark. However, in light of the challenges that the NSJP has faced throughout its implementation process, small successes such as Oaxaca’s may also be regarded as achievements for the country’s juridical transition.

Implementation of judicial reforms

State ranking of conditions for the implementation of criminal justice reform. (Source: Proyecto Justicia)

The federal government publishes similar data on the country’s status in the transition process. Its website, overseen by the Mexican Technical Secretariat for Justice Sector Reform (Secretaría Técnica del Consejo de Coordinación para la Implementación del Sistema de Justicia Penal, SETEC), presents figures that describe state rankings and the number of resources allocated to each for the purpose of implementing NSJP. It also includes a list of municipalities in which the reform has been implemented. SETEC utilizes a separate methodology and stratification system from CIDAC that classifies the states into one of seven categories that range from “minimal” to “optimal” and describe the level of implementation of NSJP. Oaxaca sits in the “low” group, while Chihuahua, Baja California, and Guanajuato, the three states ranked highest by CIDAC, occupy the  “medium”, “low”, and “low” categories respectively.

A countdown to the national goal date of completion of the new system’s implementation flashes across the SETEC homepage—just less than a year ahead.

While several states began the implementation process as early as 2005, no state has surpassed the 700-point mark on CIDAC’s evaluation scale. In fact, most states lie between the 250 and 400-point range, according to graphs provided by Justice Project. As a result, the one-year deadline to complete the system’s transition presents a considerable challenge to Mexico’s federal, state, and municipal governments. Alfonso Pérez Daza, Counclimember  to the Mexico’s Federal Judicial Council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, CJF), recently released a statement addressing these obstacles. In it, he stressed the importance of the public’s confidence in the new system as well as the long-term nature of the current justice project. Pérez Daza also stated that the federal government will be developing a permanent training system for all parties involved in justice proceedings in order to facilitate the transition to an oral, accusatorial justice system.

Trying to address this need of training, many organizations from Mexico and the United States have developed sustained efforts to help attorneys, judges, defenders, prosecutors, law students and professors to improve their oral advocacy skills. Justice in Mexico has been working to provide the such skills through the ongoing OASIS project, faculty, students, and staff from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) had the opportunity to participate in skill-building workshops over the past several months to learn the ins and outs of the new judicial system. This summer the second phase of OASIS will take participants from UNAM to Washington, D.C, Boston and San Diego to participate in advanced seminars regarding the oral, adversarial justice system, and to learn and compare the U.S. Legal System.

 

Sources:

“Recuperar confianza social, núcleo vital de reforma penal: Pérez Daza.” Terra. Jun. 10, 2015. http://noticias.terra.com/mundo/recuperar-confianza-social-nucleo-vital-de-reforma-penal-perez-daza,46f98ce310af9ab4a059e5f5f7bd078cegcpRCRD.html

“Oaxaca entre los primeros estados del ranking en implementación de Reforma Penal: CIDAC.” El Oriente. Jun. 8, 2015. http://www.eloriente.net/home/2015/06/08/oaxaca-entre-los-primeros-estados-del-ranking-en-implementacion-de-reforma-penal-cidac/

SETEC. Jun., 2015. http://setec.gob.mx/

“Nueva metodología para clasificación y estratificación de entidades federativas.” SETEC. Jun., 2015. http://setec.gob.mx/es/SETEC/Nueva_Metodologia_para_Clasificacion_y_Estratificacion_de_Entidades_Federativas

“Reporte de hallazgos 2014 sobre los avances de la implementación y operación de la reforma penal en México.” Proyecto Justicia, 2015. http://proyectojusticia.org/images/Articulos/ReportedeHallazgos2014.pdf

Oral trials begin in Federal District with implementation of new justice reforms

Federal District Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa, second from left, announced the launch of oral trials in the capital on January 16. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Federal District Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa, second from left, announced the launch of oral trials in the capital on January 16. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

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.

Sources:

Fuentes, David. “Inician juicios orales para delitos no graves.” El Universal. January 16, 2015.

“El DF abre su nuevo sistema de justicia penal con juicios orales.” CNN México. January 16, 2015.

Díaz, Omar. “Suman 161 investigaciones con nuevo sistema penal del DF.” La Crónica de Hoy. January 19, 2015.

Viale Toledo, Oscar. “Realizan primer juicio oral en el DF; abordan homicidio culposo.” La Crónica de Hoy. January 28, 2014.