Forum: Oral Trials in Baja California, A New Way to Impart Justice
On May 21, 2013, the Baja California Attorney's General Office and the CWAG Alliance Partnership presented the forum "Oral Trials in Baja California: A New Way to Impart Justice," at the Grand Hotel Tijuana. Attendance exceeded expectations, with a total of 1,358 people registering at the event, in addition to more than 140 people who watched the simultaneous transmission from the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Baja California Sur, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas.
In the inauguration ceremony the Attorney General included representatives of civil society organizations, local government, the media, the military, higher education, federal and municipal police, and the judiciary:
- Dr. Orlando Camacho, Director of Mexico SOS
- Katia Bustillos Iturralde, Director of Televisa Channel 12 Tijuana
- Lic. Francisco Alberto Molina Hernández, Chief Judge for Criminal Matters, Tijuana Judicial District
- Susan Lustig, CWAG Alliance Partnership Administrative Director
- Lic. Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, Attorney General of the State of Baja California
- Lic. Jesús Alberto Capella Ibarra, Director of the Secretariat of Public Security, City of Tijuana
- Dr. Mario Herrera Zárate, Director of the UABC Law School, Tijuana Campus
- Legal Director of the 20th City Council of Tijuana, Representing the Mayor
- Antonio Lugo Gutiérrez, State Coordinator of the Federal Preventive Police
Attendees came from communities throughout the state, including Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate and Mexicali, including AG's office prosecutors, investigators and forensic branch personnel; municipal police; students from various law schools; public and private defense attorneys; the media; special guests from the San Diego legal community; and other interested observers.
The event was simultaneously broadcast via internet, and participants from 7 other northern states viewed the transmission. To view a recording of the forum, visit the CWAG Alliance Partnership web page: Video Library
The program discussed general aspects of the oral trial process to the audience, with presentations by experienced US trial attorneys:
- Jesus Romero, San Diego County Public Defender's Office
- Anthony Da Silva, California Department of Justice
- Carlos Varela, San Diego County District Attorney's Office
- Frank Collins, CWAG Alliance Partnership
The second half of the program featured a complete mock trial, presented by members of the Attorney General's Office. The mock trial brought the concepts discussed in the first session to life, allowing the audience the experience the process first hand.
Zacatecas and Nevada Attorneys General Meet
May 9, 2013
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto hosted Zacatecas Attorney General Arturo Nahle Garcia in Las Vegas. General Nahle Garcia and his top staff observed proceedings of the Criminal Calendar at the Eighth Judicial District Court, followed by one-on-one meetings several judges.
They also visited the Clark County Crime Lab, where they were able to consult with lab technicians and administrators regarding the construction of their own new crime lab. During a meeting with General Masto and the Nevada Gaming Control Board, discussions touched on the regulation of casinos and other issues of the regulation, investigation and prosecution of money laundering crimes.
Completing the packed agenda, the delegation met with the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, to discussed law school curriculum, third party legal organizations and the integration of continuing legal education for the Zacatecas Attorney General's Office.
Criminal Procedure Codes:
Is one code better than many?By Frank Collins, CWAG Alliance Partnership Legal Advisor
From state to state, rules of criminal procedure are often quite different in the same area of law. This is true in both the United States and Mexico. Different areas of law may require different sets of rules (criminal vs. civil procedure being a good example). But there is another reason for the proliferation of rules: Decentralized rulemaking.
Today in Mexico, there is a push to unify the rules of criminal procedure. A uniform criminal procedure code has been proposed by a Senate committee and is being sent to the Chamber of Deputies for consideration. The ultimate goal is to have one set of procedural rules for all the Mexican jurisdictions to follow.
This push for uniformity is far from unprecedented. For example, the vast majority of states in the U.S. have adopted the federal rules of evidence, effectively creating uniform rules across the states. And in Mexico, General Laws address issues from money laundering to human trafficking.
Uniformity of criminal procedure has distinct advantages. Arguably, the drafters will have the resources to create a well-researched, workable set of rules. Plus, scrutiny will be nation-wide as opposed to localized. At least in theory, the end product will be better.
A great advantage is that attorneys can more easily practice in different jurisdictions, because they already know the rules. This helps clients, as they can draw from a wider pool of defense attorneys. This benefits defense attorneys as well, because their pool of potential clients is correspondingly enlarged. In general, it will increase the competency of all attorneys, because by learning one set of rules, they know the rules in all the states.
Perhaps a greater benefit is equal justice. Differing rules can affect outcomes. Is it fair when a defendant in one state is set free and another defendant in a different state is incarcerated, merely because the rules were different? Uniformity of rules across the states in Mexico can help ensure that all defendants (and victims) are treated the same.
But alas, there are drawbacks. We do not live in a uniform world. People, and their priorities, vary from region to region. An issue in one state may be a serious problem, but in another it may only be a minor nuisance. Uniformity of laws and rules, by definition, does not take this into account. Thus a centralized code imposes its standards, no matter how incompatible, on a multitude of cultures and circumstances across Mexico.
If a procedure of the uniform rules is flawed, that flaw will be inflicted on all jurisdictions across Mexico and may be difficult for a single state to remedy. However, when the remedy is enacted, its effect is immediate throughout the country.
Uniformity stifles innovation. If necessity is the mother of invention, the particular needs of states may allow them to create more effective procedures. Once these innovative procedures are shown to improve the state's criminal justice system, other states may choose adopt them, thus improving their systems. If no opportunity for innovation exists, then certainly none will occur.
It is easy for experts in one region to dictate rules to the whole country, but why should one assume they know best? Have they visited the courthouses in Chiapas? Have they walked the streets of Ciudad Juarez? Do they have experience fighting organized crime in Tijuana? Would not those who have firsthand experience be better situated to decide the rules of their own courts?
As long as fundamental rights are respected at local levels, decentralized rule-making should work. But it is frequently argued that the best solution is found closest to the problem. With the code of criminal procedure, the fundamental rights being respected, including those of the victim, the accused and society at large, emanate from the Constitution, a fundamentally centralized document. Due to its central role in Mexican law, perhaps it makes sense that the criminal procedure code that flows from it should be central in nature as well.
All of these points must be viewed through the lens of Mexico's current circumstances. What is needed most today? Maybe equal treatment should be the priority, or maybe respect for regional differences is more important. There is no certain answer on whether one or many codes of criminal procedure are better. As with any public policy, one must balance the good with the bad, and the benefit with the cost.
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CWAG Alliance Partnership Programs
The CWAG Alliance Partnership facilitates collaboration between U.S. and Mexican state Attorneys General's Offices. Available services include:
- Contacts Database
- Comprehensive, sortable contact information for people involved with AP trainings, meetings and events
- Quick-Response Contact Information
- Direct contacts within the U.S. and Mexican AGO's for help on specific cases
- Case Consulting
- Help preparing a case for oral trial, from investigation to arguments, by an experienced U.S. criminal prosecutor
- Office Reviews/Efficiency Audits
- A team of experts observes and advises on processes and procedures, to help address a specific issue or give a general perspective
- Best Practices Consulting
- Experienced professionals share hard-earned knowledge about relevant matters
2013 Training Schedule
Oral Advocacy Skills for Prosecutors
- July 29- August 2: Live Training in Mexico City, Mexico, with Mixed Model Distance Learning in Tampico, Tamaulipas
- August 12-16: Live Training in Phoenix, Arizona with Mixed Model Distance Learning in Sinaloa, Mexico
- September 10-12: Mixed Model Distance Learning Broadcast to Sonora, Mexico*Schedule subject to change. Contact us for the latest schedule.
Case Consultations in Cuernavaca, Morelos
April 4 - 5, 2013
A team of 6 experienced prosecutors, 5 from the United States and one from Mexico, participated in an intensive, on-site case consultation session to review pending case files and advise the prosecutors on strategies for preparing for oral trial. 16 state prosecutors, along with several investigators and assistants, discussed 28 separate cases with the team, including matters of human trafficking, kidnapping, armed robbery, illegal drugs, corruption, rape and murder. The consultations covered all stages of the process, including detection, investigation, charging, trial preparation and conducting the oral trial itself. The Attorneys General's Offices of the states of California, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Oaxaca, and the Pinal County Attorney's Office, donated the time of their prosecutors to travel to Mexico to perform these case consultations.
Call for Arson Investigation Instructors
The International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) is a worldwide organization dedicated to knowledge, training, and professionalism of everyone who is responsible for determining the causes of accidental fires caused. The association of 7500 members include researchers from police and fire departments, as well as attorneys, experts, scientists, engineers, and staff of insurance companies. The association has 75 chapters, of which two are in Mexico.
The partnership brings together people involved in fire investigation to follow common goals, and developing training in Spanish to support its mission to provide the best training on scientific principles and research standards of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that are accepted in the United States and many other countries. For more information about NFPA please visit their website in Spanish www.NFPAjla.org or English www.NFPA.org
The IAAI is launching a campaign for prosecutors and experts interested in participating or carry out presentations and / or training in Mexico or other
Spanish speaking countries. As stakeholders in exchanges with others in this profession. For more information please contact George Codding to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ricardo Torres email@example.com Both are members of the board of directors of the IAAI and can correspond with you in Spanish or English. For more information please visit their website www.firearson.com
For all information and requests, contact:
AP Program Liaison
AP Legal Advisor
Ágora Magazine is published by the US Northern Command, the Department of Defense's unified homeland security command. Their area of operations includes all of North America, and as part of their outreach, they publish the magazine in English and Spanish to highlight topics of interest to Mexican government and law enforcement.
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This material was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.