film March 9, 2011 By John Dickie

pc 2 Presunto Culpable      Presunto Culpable tells the story of Antonio Zuñiga, a young man wrongly accused of murder in Mexico City in 2005. Upon conviction, he managed to contact lawyers and filmmakers Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete (their production company is called Abogados con Camaras – “Lawyers with cameras”), who, after identifying gaping holes in the original trial (like the fact that the prosecuting attorney had not studied law and had a fake license and that Zuñiga has a watertight alibi placing him several miles from the crime scene at the time of the incident), secured the services of criminal trial lawyer Rafael Heredia to retry the case. Zuñiga was eventually released after appeal on 25th April 2008.
     During the film, we bear witness to the entire trial, the first time one has been filmed in Mexico. And it is shocking to watch. The judge, his clerk, the prosecution and defense sit around an old desk in the front offices of Reclusorio Oriente prison, while Zuñiga stands behind bars listening and giving his testimony. The process looks more like an argument in some weird Kafkian cantina. The police officers and chief who tended the crime scene also appear, but pretty much all they say is “I don’t remember anything.” While the only witness, the cousin of the victim — who confronts Zuñiga in the bizarre process known as careo (“face-off”), whereby the accused and the witnesses engage in a Q and A, with the judge repeating their every word to the clerk, who frantically types on an ancient PC (the declarations are saved on floppy disk) – eventually crumbles and admits he never saw Zuñiga holding or firing the weapon. Forensic tests had already proven this, but, somehow, were overlooked in the original trial.

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