When it comes to justice in Mexico, stories rarely have a happy ending. In the case of Reasonable doubt: tale of two kidnappings, Not only does the premise not change, it unfolds between dramatic twists and turns that even the best fiction writer could not imagine. The plot begins with a slight traffic accident and suddenly escalates to a narrative of judicial inconsistencies, torture, discrimination, an accusation of kidnapping and the prison in Macuspana (Tabasco).
“If we want a omelet, we have to break the odd egg “says one of the real-life characters in this miniseries, Normando Granados, a former official of the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Tabasco, where the story takes place. Roberto Hernández, who in 2011 premiered Presumed Guilty, began filming this work in 2016 after finding Gonzalo, a man accused of kidnapping after having participated in the traffic accident and then finding Darwin, Héctor and Juan Luis, all accused of this crime.
“I was looking for a policeman, a kind of Serpico to make a documentary told from their point of view and I spoke with 300 policemen, one by one, looking for something about what was happening and willing to risk my skin to transform the institution police ”, says Hernández in an interview with EL PAÍS. But it was impossible to find it. “I did not find a single incorruptible policeman who does not receive a single bite, because in Mexico it is impossible to survive if you are not part of the pyramidal corruption scheme,” he says.
Hernández did not find a police officer, but he did find a lawyer. Andrés Andrade was a former high-impact prosecutor in the State of Tabasco, an institution in charge of investigating kidnappings. “When I called him, he had already resigned and it suited him perfectly to expose a reality that he considered unacceptable, because he knows the beast from within and therefore generates this tension, where his own collaborators see him as a traitor,” says the documentary filmmaker .
Torture and loopholes in the justice system changed little since it was released Presumed Guilty and the Criminal Justice System in Mexico was reformed to give rise to oral trials. Today, in Tabasco, 79% of those accused of a crime are tortured, and if they are accused of kidnapping, the figure rises to 97.5%, according to the more than 450 interviews that Hernández conducted for this documentary.
The action of the authorities, in this sense, is essential. Prosecutors and deputy prosecutors, judges and lawyers and of course, the Tabasco police, are exposed in this four-part miniseries that premieres on November 23 on the Netflix platform. “We have an expert system to manipulate the evidence, but it also chooses people who have a kind of ‘guilt appearance’ and that nobody is going to want to defend: addicts, homeless, poor people, brown skin, this meeting of vulnerabilities of those who have been historically marginalized, ”says Hernández.
Spending five years documenting the stories of four accused of kidnapping is not easy. In the process, the problems of marginalization and discrimination to which the more than 1,000 inmates of a prison are exposed, as well as their families. And with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, things got even more complicated. “He put the lives of the defendants at risk, of the production team because there was no way to keep social distancing and the cost was increased,” he says.
This story, like many that are related to justice in Mexico, does not yet have an ending, much less something close to a happy ending. Today, one of the prosecutors continues to practice in another state, but with greater power and responsibility, the same as the lawyers who were part of the prosecution. “It changed our lives and it was also about to cost us our lives,” Hernández concludes a few days after a story is known that in Mexico, seems to have no end.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.