WTF Friday, 1/11/2013

The Mexico City AG’s office has released mug shots of 12 dogs rounded up by authorities following the biting deaths of four people in a local park.

A total of 36 dogs have now been caught, and are being tested for human blood and DNA. Any dogs that test clean will be available for adoption. The rest face the death penalty.

The fate of the dogs has sparked a vigorous debate among Mexico City residents and animal rights activists, many of whom feel that the dogs have been framed. Inevitably, a Twitter campaign on behalf of the “perros detenidos” has sprung up, calling on the government to rectify this abuse of due process and release the dogs at once. No word yet on whether defense counsel has been appointed.


(H/T to the incomparable Myles Estey.)

WTF Friday, 4/6/2012

This is kind of the perfect set-up. Nick Cage hasn’t done a prison movie since 1997, and I think we all know how well that went.

“An exhibition of guns as art now in Mexico is making its way from Mexico to the United States, where many of the weapons presumably originated.” I think the ATF just set those guns free because they loved them so much, hoping that they would come back one day, thus reciprocating the love.

I kind of feel like I’m gonna jinx this if I talk about it.


WTF Friday 4/16/10

  • Several English football (soccer) clubs are participating in a series of PSAs called “FC Afrika” which are meant to spread awareness about things such as mosquito nets and staying in school. The clubs then create goal celebrations around these themes. The strangest is this one by Portsmouth FC, where the players celebrate by pretending to get blood drawn for an HIV test. Really? I feel like maybe they should have found another way to spread that particular awareness. Also, as stated by 101 Great Goals, it’s a mystery who FC Afrika actually are. But hey, no word describes how the West perceives Africa better than “mysterious.”
  • A drug cartel in Reynosa, Mexico uses Twitter to announce that a gigantic shootout will happen “tomorrow or Sunday.” Seriously? You’re trying to terrify people by saying that the “largest scheduled shootout in the history of Reynosa” is going down, but you’re not gonna commit to a date? (via Mother Jones)
  • I’m not sure if I’m more baffled by the fact that Shabab has outlawed school bells in the southern town of Jowhar for being “reminiscent of churches,” or the fact that when I checked (around 3:00 pm ET), this was the ONLY story in the NYT’s “Africa” section for April 15th. I would love to know what got cut in favor of this sure-fire headliner.
  • So apparently Zimbabwe is looking for a new executioner and is putting out ads to find one. The only requirement is a high school education. Gotta wonder what skills taught in Zimbabwean high schools could possibly be applicable to this position.

WTF Friday: Technical-Difficulties-So-Actually-WTF-Monday Edition

Proving it’s never too late for awesome, here’s the latest from the desk of our beloved Intern Chris:*

* Sadly, technical difficulties prevented this WTF Friday post from being brought to you on Friday. But, hey, whose Monday couldn’t use a little Friday in it?

Now That’s a Good Use of Video Cameras

Lawyers With Cameras = just awesome. Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernández, two Mexican lawyers who are now Berkeley PhD students, used a brilliant combination of lawyering and videro cameras to save an innocent man from serving decades in prison.

The Mexican justice system has only the most tenuous of connections to the actual investigation and punishment of crimes. Hardly any cases are investigated or prosecuted. And when the police and courts do get involved, they don’t improve things much:

“Crooked cops regularly solve cases by grabbing the first person they find, often along with a cooked-up story from someone claiming to be an eyewitness. Prosecutors and judges play along, eager to calm a growing public outcry over high crime rates and rising violence from Mexico’s war on illicit drug gangs. In practice, suspects are often presumed guilty. More than 85% of those charged with a crime are sentenced, according to Mexico’s top think tank, the Center for Investigation and Development, or CIDE. […]

Someone committing a crime in Mexico has only a two in 100 chance of getting caught and punished, according to Guillermo Zepeda, a CIDE scholar. A big reason is that just 12% of crimes are reported to the police, Mr. Zepeda says. In a big deterrent, police ask many people who report crimes for money to solve the case or become suspects themselves, Mr. Zepeda says….In more than six of every 10 cases, suspects were arrested within three hours of the crime, leaving little time for serious detective work, according to a study from CIDE. Almost none were shown an arrest warrant.”

Negrete and Hernández took on the case of Antonio Zuñiga, a street vendor who was arrested for murder while out for a walk in December 2005.

“As he crossed a busy Mexico City avenue, two burly cops grabbed him from behind and shoved him into a patrol car.

So began a nightmarish journey into Mexico’s legal system that seems lifted from the pages of Franz Kafka. For nearly two days, the street vendor was held incommunicado and not told why he was arrested. His questions met with hostile stares from detectives, who would say “You know what you did.” He says in an interview that he only learned of the charges after walking into a holding cell and being asked by a prisoner: “Are you the guy accused of murder?”

Mr. Zuñiga, then 26, was charged in the shooting death of a gang member from his neighborhood. Ballistic tests showed Mr. Zuñiga hadn’t fired a gun. Dozens of witnesses saw him working at his market stall during the time of the murder, which took place several miles away. And he had never met the victim. Still, he was found guilty by a judge at trial and sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

Zuñiga,however, was relatively lucky. Hernández and Negrete realized that the lawyer who had represented Zuñiga in his original trial was a fraudster working on a forged license, and that was enough to win him a retrial. They also got permission from the trial judge to film the entire retrial, as well as interviews with witnesses. That footage became a 90-minute documentary, Presumed Guilty. What it shows is not pretty:

“When asked by one of Mr. Zuñiga’s defense lawyers what evidence he has against Mr. Zuñiga, the detective in charge of the case says: “He’s here (in prison), right? He must have done something.” Asked by the lawyer why she was prosecuting an innocent man, the prosecutor says with a weak smile: “It’s my job.” […]

The judge, Hector Palomares dons his robe this time around and sits behind a makeshift desk. Mr. Zuñiga says Mr. Palomares never emerged from his office at his first trial. […]

At one point, the witness, Mr. Reyes, is asked by one of Mr. Zuñiga’s defense lawyers to describe the three gang members whom he’d originally accused. He describes each one. Asked to describe Mr. Zuñiga, the man he later accused, he can’t.

The detectives who arrested the street vendor and handled his case testified, but claimed they didn’t remember anything. “We have a lot of cases,” says Jose Manuel Ortega, the lead detective, shrugging his shoulders. “I can’t remember all of them.” Mr. Ortega declined to comment.

At the height of the retrial, Mr. Zuñiga confronts his accuser face-to-face. As the pair talk in stilted tones and pause so a stenographer can transcribe each word, the drama builds. Finally, Mr. Reyes admits he never saw who killed his cousin.”

Shockingly, (or perhaps not-so-shockingly, given that the retrial was heard by the same judge who had handled the original case), Zuñiga was convicted again in the retrial. However, when Negrete and Hernández appealed the decision, they also showed the appeals court a rough cut of their documentary, and the panel was so disturbed by what it showed that they overturned the verdict. They set Mr. Zuñiga free in April of 2008.

Negrete and Hernández’s work continued to make waves. They coupled their documentary with aggressive research into successful judicial reforms that had been put into place in Chile, and along with other activists they lobbied their government to put similar methods into practice in Mexico. Their success was impressive: in June of 2008, President Felipe Calderón signed a constitutional amendment that, among other things, makes trials public, and guarantees the presumption of innocence for the accused.

Go lawyers!

9 out of 10 Mexican Men Agree: Women Aren’t Safe Around Mexican Men

A friend sent me this article reporting that Mexico has been struggling with pandemic levels of sexual harassment on its public transit system.

Now, I think most of us who are identifiably female and regularly ride the subway are familiar with the subset of men who believe that the act of respiration should be translated as “boy, i really wish someone would grab my ass right about now.” I mean, this is why my mother’s great-grandmother instructed her to always carry a hat pin, right? But last month, Mexico City bureaucrats came up with a novel solution to the problem… gender segregation! Special no-boys-allowed buses, identifiable by their pretty pink placards, are now schlepping the women of Mexican City about on their daily business.

According to the Times, many local men support the policy, suggesting that really, women are better off on separate buses, where they won’t be in danger of tempting men into groping them. Presumably, the reporter declined to follow up by inquiring whether the women wouldn’t be safer covered in some sort of full-body garment. Or better yet, they could just stay home.