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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Roberto Hernandez, Geoffrey Smith
Icarus Films 08/08 DVD/VHS Documentary
Crime is a nightmare in Mexico, and people are willing to let the police and the courts do whatever they want to insure their safety and well-being — even if it means ignoring due process and denying basic human rights.
Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith have made an impressive documentary about the case of Jose Antonio Zuniga Rodriguez who was imprisoned by some aggressive policemen in 2005 for shooting another young man. At the time of the murder, he was elsewhere — at his market stand — and others in the community saw him. Without any testimony from these witnesses, Zuniga was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge with a reputation for being hard on crime.
The story of this innocent break dancer and rap singer precedes the following scary statistics about the Mexican justice system that are flashed on the screen:
• 93% of the defendants never see a judge.
Zuniga shares his prison cell with 20 other men and sleeps in a small space underneath a bunk bed. Hernandez (co-director) and his lawyer wife, Layda Negrete, take his case and manage to get a retrial and bring in an accomplished lawyer pro bono. Can he get a fair hearing this time even though the judge is the same one who sentenced him? Zuniga's wife, family, and friends are all hoping for the best as the retrial moves forward.
Presumed Guilty does a fine job charting the corruption and ineptitude of the Mexican justice system which so far has operated freely in a world of shadows. Hernandez and Smith bring this injustice into the light of day with this bold documentary.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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