Monday, June 2, 2014

Only seven Mexican states are well prepared to carry out criminal investigations, analysts report

Guadalajara -
Mexico has 31 states and a Federal District, but only seven of them are equipped with the personnel and equipment to meet international criminal investigation standards, a team of forensic consultants has reported.

The consultants, some Mexican and some from other nations, are collaborating with U.S. officials to modernize the nation's notoriously lagging criminal investigation system, one of the goals of the Mérida Inititiative signed in 2007 by former presidents Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and George W. Bush.

Retraining poorly prepared state and local police forces and purging their ranks of corrupt officers began in January 2009 and was to have been completed 18 months ago. But the process is still underway, with a new deadline of Oct. 29, 2014. Senators seek yet another delay in police vetting.

Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Morelos, Jalisco, Yucatán and the State of Mexico (Edomex) all now meet generally recognized criminal investigative standards, according to law enforcement specialists, with Baja California leading the pack.

Training in the preservation of crime scenes and the maintenance of a chain of custody over critical forensic evidence such as weapons and genetic materials are critical in preparing investigators for the demands of modern legal proceedings. In 2008 Mexico amended its federal constitution to mandate so-called oral trials throughout the nation by no later than 2016, a change which president Enrique Peña Nieto said in Mérida last week was the country's greatest legal challenge in a century.

An oral trial is one which closely resemble Anglo-American proceedings, where a judicial officer listens to live testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses in a public courtroom and examines relevant physical evidence. Such trials will put an end to "paper prosecutions," where criminal judges typically read a one sided summary of the case prepared by local police, with little or no opportunity for a defendant to cross examine the accuser or confront charges against him in a meaningful way.

Analysts concur that Mexico's highly trained and well equipped federal criminal investigators easily meet international standards. The Investigative Services Division of the federal attorney general's office includes physicians, chemists, attorneys, veterinarians, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, dentists and facial reconstruction specialists, civil engineers, architects, accountants and others.

Since 2008 Mexico has received $1.9 billion dollars in weapons, equipment, personnel training and high tech assistance under the Mérida Inititiative, according to the U.S. State Dept. A significant portion of those funds have been used to modernize criminal investigative systems at the federal level.

Yucatán will become only the fourth Mexican state to fully implement the adversarial system of oral trials when it does so tomorrow.

Mar. 5 - Mexico enacts uniform criminal procedure code for the first time in its history

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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