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Mexico reforms its justice system

From the Associated Press

President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday signed landmark judicial legislation that allows U.S.-style public trials and creates a presumption of innocence for the accused.

Under the long-awaited constitutional amendments, guilt or innocence no longer will be decided behind closed doors by a judge relying on written evidence.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will argue their cases in court, and judges must explain their decisions to defendants.

“Now we can offer citizens a more transparent judicial system that respects human rights and protects your rights with more speed and efficiency,” Calderon said.

The law is expected to take effect Thursday. But it is unclear how quickly public trials will begin. The law says the changes must be implemented by 2016.

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Thousands of lawyers and judges must be trained on the logistics of holding a trial. Courthouses must be modified to make room for participants.

It probably will take even longer to change the treatment of the accused in Mexico, where suspects are routinely paraded before cameras -- sometimes holding weapons they are accused of using in crimes -- even before they have been charged.


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