Trials and errors

7 months ago Comments Off on Trials and errors

IN 2005 José Antonio Zúñiga, a Mexican street vendor of computer services, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder. His conviction relied on the account of a lone witness, who did not mention Mr Zúñiga until his third statement to police. Other stallholders said he was at work during the murder. The court excluded statements supporting him, and ignored contradictions in the prosecution’s case and a test that showed he had not fired the gun.

Mr Zúñiga had the good fortune to have two campaigning lawyers take on his case, who succeeded in overturning the verdict. In 2011 his story was featured in a documentary, “Presumed Guilty”. But he is a rare exception among the wrongly convicted in Mexico. Overall, says an attorney in the film, “from the moment they accuse someone, the prosecution has won.”

The message of “Presumed Guilty” would surprise most foreign observers of Mexico’s drug war. The popular perception is that the country’s courts fail to convict enough people. Around three-quarters of murders go unsolved, and the public has grown inured to the spectacle of masked soldiers parading recently arrested…Continue reading