by: Dr. Mario Melgar-AdalidThe documentary film "Presumed Guilty" ("Presunto Culpable") has stirred great controversy. The film exposes the flaws of Mexico's judiciary in criminal cases. The order issued by a district judge to temporarily suspend the screening of the film generated even more attention to this matter. In Mexico, this documentary film has been a blockbuster. Opinion polls conducted in Mexico show the public has a negative perception and superficial knowledge of Mexico's judicial system when it comes to criminal cases. Confusion exists in the general population regarding the distinction between federal and state court systems, and between the investigation and the accusation stages of a case. The public does not clearly understand the role of the attorney general as a prosecutor, and the role of judges, whose role is to be the official intermediary between the accused and the prosecutor. A reputable international organization, World Justice Project (WJP), conducted a public opinion study and sent questionnaires to legal experts in various countries, including Mexico. As of today, over 35,000 people and nearly 900 experts have participated in the study. The purpose of the WJP's study is to identify the ways in which the population of a country perceives the rule of law. Mexico's ranking among the 35 countries studied included is as follows: effectiveness of the judicial system, 34th; limits to the power of government, 21st; corruption, 32nd; clear, well publicized and stable laws, 17th; efficacy of justice in criminal cases, 34th. Nevertheless, Mexico did not rank poorly in all the study's findings, ranking second among all of the Latin American countries studied in the area of government openness. Mexicans have better access to official information, legislative documents and government contracts than, for example, the Austrians or the Spaniards. The film "Presumed Guilty" and the results of this international opinion poll, however, confirm that Mexico must undertake an extraordinary effort to improve the judicial system in criminal cases and, consequently, the negative perception that Mexicans have as to the administration of justice in Mexico.
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