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Presumed Guilty: Powerful, Insightful Documentary Available on PBS

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Run, don’t walk, to your computer to check out Presumed Guilty (Presunto Culpable in Spanish), an incredibly powerful and insightful documentary on the injustices in Mexico’s criminal justice system.  You can see the film in its entirety on the PBS/Point of View website through August 4th.  To watch it online, click here.

Just to give you a taste, here are the first few paragraphs of a description of the film:

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It’s no wonder the Mexican police detectives in the explosive new documentary Presumed Guilty stare at the camera during the dramatic retrial for murder of Antonio Zúñiga and accuse the filmmakers of threatening them by the mere act of filming. The cameras are there as part of an unprecedented effort by two young married lawyers, Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernández, to bring cameras into Mexican courtrooms to expose a justice system they see as corrupt and fatally compromised by a medieval concept of guilt and innocence.

In Mexico, those arrested are, in practice, considered guilty until proven innocent — with predictable results. The great majority of the accused never see a judge or even an arrest warrant. The conviction rate in Mexico City of those who do go to court is an incredible 95%, but 92% of verdicts lack scientific evidence. The road from arrest to prison proceeds behind closed doors via reams of paperwork that may have more to do with bureaucratic needs than actual events.

Antonio Zúñiga was a 26-year-old street vendor and aspiring dancer/rapper on Dec. 12, 2005, when police grabbed him off a Mexico City street and shoved him into a police car. For 48 hours he was kept in a holding cell at a stationhouse and held incommunicado without being told the charges against him. His repeated questions elicited only the accusation “You know what you did.” Zúñiga learned of the charges only when another detainee asked him, “Are you the guy accused of murder?

To watch Presumed Guilty online, click here.

Photo credit: Dana Gonzales

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