The Plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ordered this Thursday the immediate release of three men from Tabasco sentenced to 50 years in prison, after the 11 ministers unanimously voted in favor of granting them plain and simple protection for the innumerable violations of due process registered in their criminal case, in which they were accused of attempted aggravated kidnapping.
This case became relevant because the detainees starred in the documentary “Reasonable Doubt”, directed by the lawyer Roberto Hernandez and transmitted in Netflix in 2021, which narrates the way in which the convicted were arrested and tortured in a process riddled with irregularities.
What was exposed in the filming led the Court to attract, last February, the direct protection of the prisoners against the sentence imposed on them by a Criminal Chamber of the Judiciary of the state of Tabasco, which reversed the first instance sentence that amounted to to three and a half years in prison, replacing it with a sentence of 50 years.
The beneficiaries of this protection They have been in a prison in the municipality of Macuspana, Tabasco, since 2015. after being apprehended -without reliable evidence- by municipal police, based on events that arose in a traffic accident.
The ministers of the Court agreed that the Tabasco Prosecutor’s Office carried out a careless investigation, in addition to the fact that “the testimony of the arresting police officers, (and) the negligence of the investigating authority can never play to the detriment of the accused”, considering the principle of presumption of innocence.
The amparo sentence, whose project was prepared by Minister Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena, points out that the violation of the right of the complainants to be judged through a trial that respects the principle of presumption of innocence “It is of such magnitude” that a new trial would only re-victimize them, so in this case it was not appropriate to order the reinstatement of the procedure, but to grant the immediate release of the detainees.
The document emphasizes that, violating what is established in article 20 of the Constitution, the Tabasco Prosecutor’s Office reversed the burden of proof on the defendants, when in reality it was the Public Ministry that had to prove, beyond any doubt, the responsibility of those indicated.
Thus, the Court did not find “any element to justify the conviction of the now complainants”, because “given the probative activity of the local prosecutor’s office and the standard incorrectly used by the oral trial court to judge the facts that are the subject of the trial, we must leave it Sure: for all formal purposes, the complainants are innocent. His criminal responsibility has not been proven. the amparo sentence concludes.
Regarding the violations to the human rights of the defendants that were registered in this case by the authorities, the president of the Court Arturo Zaldívar emphasized that these managed to be “proven in an atrocious way” in the amparo.
“The arbitrariness and abuse of power is verified,” while “they are tortured and guilty parties are fabricated,” added the minister president.
The documentary “Reasonable Doubt”, directed by the filmmaker and lawyer Roberto Hernandez, showed in four chapters how the municipal Police, and then agents of the Public Ministry of the Tabasco Prosecutor’s Office, arbitrarily arrest and accuse four men, of these, one was released in 2018, while the remaining three were sentenced, in second instance, to 50 years in prison for the crime of attempted aggravated kidnapping.
Initially the sentence had been three and a half years in prison, but on appeal, to which the Public Ministry appealed, it was raised to five decades in prison.
In interview with HIGH LEVEL, Hernández considered the release of those sentenced to be positive, although he regretted that the decision of the Supreme Court was not accompanied by a single criterion that allows changing the current penal system in the states of the country, which maintains serious deficiencies that affect especially the most vulnerable people. vulnerable.
Additionally, the requirements to promote a direct amparo so that -at the federal level- the sentences of the state Judicial Powers are reviewed, they continue to be too technical, which leaves people who do not have sufficient resources to defend themselves defenseless. combat the irregularities that usually occur in common criminal trials.
“There are many signs that the review system (of sentences) in Mexico needs to be modernized, become more agile, clearer, more understandable,” says the documentalist.
In addition, “what we want when a case reaches the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation is a change of address, right? that justice improves, not only that the situation of injustice be corrected, but that it be corrected for all” those who may be in the same situation.
Roberto Hernández adds that in Mexico the penal system continues to be used autocratically and, in the same way, torture remains a common practice in the Prosecutor’s Offices.
In fact, his criticism of the Public Prosecutors is blunt: “The prosecutors, there is data that confirms this, are members of criminal organizations, I would not want to generalize, but -in general- the institution continues to torture, it is operating in a way that is foreign to their mission, and they are like devices that serve to extract illegal rents”, he lamented.
For now, Héctor, Gonzalo and Juan Luis, the first names of the amparo applicants, hope to be able to recover from the traumatic experience of having spent seven years in prison, accused of a crime, upon being released by order of the Supreme Court. that they did not commit
surya palaces Journalist and lawyer, specialist in legal analysis and human rights. She has been a reporter, radio host and editor.