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VIEWPOINT: GOING ADVERSARIAL

Baja California Officials Learn from U.S. Counterparts

by Rommel Moreno Manjarrez | Attorney General of the state of Baja California
The new Code for Criminal Procedures of Baja California was published Oct. 19, 2007. That code established a new criminal justice system based on the adversarial model including oral arguments that was to be implemented in Mexicali Aug. 11, 2008.
Under these conditions, I assigned myself the task of analyzing the challenges that began appearing, to establish and support the consolidation of a genuine system of justice—one of quality, efficiency and transparency. In other words, the institutional reorganization meant harmonizing resources, experiences, needs, professionalization and capacity training.
Before taking on such challenges, it was necessary to consolidate a new philosophy in criminal justice to gain citizens’ trust through an administrative change and reorganization; but above all, it was necessary to change the mindset, rebuild values, and take advantage of the challenge of transparency to strengthen the capacities of our investigators, prosecutors and police officers. Specialized training by impartial experts was indispensable to achieve this.
On Aug. 2, 2008, in Seattle, Wash., Baja California—a border state that benefited from the binational relationship of Mexico and the U.S. and that shared the previously stated vision—entered into partnership with the Conference of Western Attorneys General by signing memorandums of understanding with attorneys general in the states of Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico. It was in this manner that the relationships were consolidated that allowed us to break paradigms and initiate a magnificent process of internal training and specific development of the inherent abilities of each member of our institution.
It is in this manner that as of today, our state attorney general’s office has signed memorandums of understanding with 12 states in the U.S., sharing judicial knowledge and experiences, exchanging ideas and walking hand in hand in search of a better procurement of justice, generating excellence in specialized subjects such as oral arguments, criminal investigations and professional ethics. These agreements have been carried out successfully.
Up to now, 169 civil servants from our institution have benefited by participation in workshops and training courses that have generated improvement in the fulfillment of their duties, which translates such into a model institution.

 

VIEWPOINT: BRINGING PEACE TO THE BORDER

U.S. Attorneys General Learn of Sacrifice by Mexican Counterparts

by John Suthers | Colorado Attorney General
Over the past several years, the Conference of Western Attorneys General has worked through an Alliance Partnership to help prepare Mexican prosecutors and investigators for the country’s switch to an oral advocacy system, akin to the court system we have in the U.S. USAID has provided funding for the effort.
This transition, from a paper-based and problem-prone system, is a complex transformation, but with our assistance and the perseverance of Mexican law enforcement, the country undoubtedly will have a better, more accountable and public justice system.
Throughout this process, I have had the pleasure of meeting dozens of Mexican prosecutors and investigators. Each of them has told me stories of unbelievable sacrifice as they grapple not only with a changing court system, but also with the country’s surge in drug-related violence. Thousands of members of the police, public and army have died on the Mexican side of the border as President Felipe Calderón has applied pressure to the cartels and the criminal enterprises have fought back. The U.S. side of the border, too, has seen its fair share of cartel-fueled death and crime.
When Colorado prosecutor Sean May was gunned down outside his home in 2008, prosecutors and police reacted with horror. The killing of a prosecutor in the U.S. is the exception. It is a rare, brazen act by criminals because they know they will face severe consequences and a vigorous investigation and prosecution.
In Mexico, and more specifically along the border, these sorts of killings—and the murder of police officers—sadly have become all too common.
Our Mexican peers face constant threats to their lives. When I drive to work it is in a run-of-the-mill sedan that no one would every notice as odd. In Mexico, it is not unusual for a state’s top prosecutor to drive to work in a heavily armored vehicle. It also is not uncommon for prosecutors to spend their nights in the U.S. where they are guaranteed a greater degree of safety.
The sacrifices of our Mexican counterparts also underline the importance of the close working relationship U.S. law enforcement must have with Mexican law enforcement. From working together to bring border-crossing criminals to justice to abating the flow of drugs and guns across our shared borders, we have a lot of work to accomplish.
There could be no greater memorial to the sacrifices of Mexican and American law enforcement alike than to meet these challenges currently facing our two countries and bring peace to our common border.
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