Mexico Judge Halts Showing of "Presumed Guilty," Documentary Exposing Country's Failing Judicial System

He was a 26-year-old street vendor and aspiring dancer/rapper on December 2005 when police grabbed him off a Mexico street and shoved him into a police car.

When he asked what his crime was, they allegedly said, "You know what you did."

Later, a fellow detainee would ask him, "Are you the guy accused of murder?"

Antonio Zúñiga is the focus of "Presumed Guilty", a documentary that looks at the broken Mexico judicial system and how a man who had witnesses testify that he was at his market stall at the time of the murder was sentenced to 20 years by a judge in a closed-door trial.

The film opened on February 18 in Mexico, gathering critical acclaim and sending shock waves throughout the country, including from officials who have acknowledged the system needs change. 

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On Wednesday, a Mexico City judge stopped it from being shown in Mexican theaters.

The judge ordered officials to temporarily pull the movie after a prosecution witness, who appears in the film, filed a complaint over his inclusion in it. 

The federal Interior Department official said Wednesday that they will appeal the ruling. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for March 11.

The documentary is the brainchild of husband-and-wife legal team Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete, who call themselves "accidental filmmakers."

In their research into Mexico's judicial system for the film, Hernández and Negrete found a closed system where trials are held in private without oral arguments; defendants never see the judge presiding at their trial; judges are often not present during court proceedings; and evidence is frequently ignored. 

Friends of  Zúñiga brought his case to the attention of the couple in a last-ditch effort to save him.

The duo took up his case late in the process and began documenting Zúñiga's story.

The movie has strongly affected many of those who have seen it. "Powerful, disturbing, honest, insightful, awakening and enraging," Ana Saldamando commented on the PBS "Presumed Guilty" page. 

"This film unmasks the corruption and injustices of the 'justice' system in Mexico," she wrote.

In an interview with PBS, Negrete said that the national conviction rate in Mexico is 80 percent -- but in Mexico City -- the rate is 95 percent. If someone is arrested there, they will almost certainly be convicted. 

"It's not about one single case that is exceptional," Negrete told PBS. "It's about a typical case." 

Watch the trailer for "Presumed Guilty."

Watch an interview with the filmmakers.

Watch the entire documentary online on PBS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at or on Twitter @RealAdrianC

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