Presumed Guilty

Directed by Roberto Hernandez & Geoffrey Smith

88 minutes / Color
English subtitles
Release: 2010
Copyright: 2009

"As soon as you're in here, you're useless. You're worthless, you're nobody. You're guilty. When we brought the camera to court, we balanced things out."—Roberto Hernandez

In December 2005 Tono Zuniga was picked up off the street in Mexico City, Mexico, and sentenced to 20 years for murder based on the testimony of a single, shaky eyewitness. PRESUMED GUILTY tells the heart-wrenching story of a man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

film still

A friend of Tono's contacted two young lawyers, Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete, who gained prominence in Mexico when they helped bring about the release of another innocent man from prison. As Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE) legal researchers, they tracked an alarming history of corruption in the Mexican justice system (93% of inmates never see an arrest warrant, and 93% of defendants never see a judge).

Looking into Tono's case, Roberto and Layda managed to get a retrial-on camera-and enlisted the help of filmmaker Geoffrey Smith (THE ENGLISH SURGEON) to chronicle the saga. Shot over three years with unprecedented access to the Mexican courts and prisons, this dramatic story is a searing indictment of a justice system that presumes guilt.

"PRESUMED GUILTY is a terrific film – gripping, shocking and quite illuminating."—Charles D. Weisselberg, Shannon C. Turner Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

"A rare – and chilling – glimpse of Mexico's dysfunctional legal system."—David Luhnow, Wall Street Journal

"Showing to the world in vivid detail the deep flaws in the system, undermining the most basic ideals of justice, this film has the potential to blow the lid on the Mexican criminal justice systems."—Jack Glaser, Associate Professor at Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

"Highly Recommended. …the riveting story of the hard-won retrial of a Mexican prisoner, Tono Zuniga, serves as an indictment of the entire Mexican criminal justice system"—Educational Media Reviews Online

"PRESUMED GUILTY demonstrates against the modern myth of justice and argues that human aspirations are always marred with contradictions. Unraveling the mysterious process that an average man is suppose to endure, the documentary brings to examination questions of justice, judiciary transparency and activism."—Anthropology Review Database

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Directed by Roberto Hernandez & Geoffrey Smith

Select Accolades

  • Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism—Long Form, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 2011​Audience Award for Best International Feature, Los Angeles Film Festival 2010Golden Gate Best Bay Area Documentary, San Francisco International Film Festival 2010Amnesty International Award, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival 2009Maysles Brothers Documentary Award, Belfast Film Festival 2009Toronto International Film Festival 2009International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2009 


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