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Hit documentary in Mexico spurs promise of more open court trials

March 9, 2011 |  1:41 pm

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says he will videotape court trials to prevent the kind of lapses revealed by a hit documentary film on Mexico’s dysfunctional justice system.

Ebrard said videotaping court proceedings would make them more transparent as Mexico City and the rest of the country ease toward a planned system of U.S.-style trials, where cases are argued in open court.

Ebrard, a probable candidate for president in 2012, said it would cost nearly $1 billion to outfit courtrooms with cameras and train judges, prosecutors and other personnel for so-called oral trials.

"If you record the hearings of judges, of legal processes, what you’re going to do is bring transparency to the process," Ebrard said in a television interview.

Flaws in Mexico’s opaque legal system, where cases are decided behind closed doors through time-consuming exchanges of piles of documents, have long been apparent.

Public disgust surged in recent weeks after "Presumed Guilty," (link in Spanish) began showing to packed movie theaters. The documentary tracks the case of a young defendant in Mexico City who is convicted — twice — and sentenced to prison for a fatal shooting he did not commit.

The documentary is itself the center of a legal tussle. A judge last week ordered a temporary suspension of screening, saying the prosecution witness agreed did not agree to the use of his image. The Cinepolis movie-theater chain, which distributed the film, stopped showing the movie Monday.

But the company said Wednesday it would resume screenings after a federal panel overruled the temporary suspension. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled Friday.

-- Ken Ellingwood, in Mexico City

 

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