Tonight, my first dispatch forRED!, as I attend a local criminal justice conference, regards the issue I call “Exploring Innocence.” I sat in the audience of a viewing of Presumed Guilty a disturbing documentary about Mexico’s inept and downright strange judicial system.

Most defendants never see a judge; whatever is written into to the record is accepted as the facts and cannot be questioned and defense attorneys aren’t allowed to introduce new questions. It’s the proverbial “catch-22” with innocent people caught in the crosshairs.

Presumed Guilty chronicles the fight to free Antonio (Tono) Zuniga, a 26-year old street vendor who was pulled into a police vehicle and arrested for murder despite the fact that he had a solid alibi with numerous witnesses to back him up. There was nothing connecting him to the crime, and he didn’t even know the victim.

With a twenty-year sentence looking probable, Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez, two young married attorneys, began filming both the proceedings in court and even in the prison. The best part of the viewing was afterwards when we were treated to a Q-and-A session with film participants who answered many questions about the parallels between the Mexican and American justice systems, the film, and innocence. 

Yes, Antonio Zuniga was ultimately freed!  

Tonight was the kick off of the 2011 Innocence Network Conference: An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction. Many of the leading experts in the Innocence Movement from around the globe and more than 80 exonerees have gathered here in Cincinnati this weekend. I am excited to be attending the conference and will be sharing more.



EDITOR’S NOTE:  RED! columnist Angela Derrick is on assignment for the webzine, sending dispatches from the 2011 Innocence Network Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Her regular column is called “Looking Outward”. 

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