Negrete Honored for Helping Improve Mexico’s Justice System

Layda Negrete has been awarded the International Women of Courage Award.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne this week awarded the Mexican filmmaker, who has been an advocate of judicial reform in her home country, with the U.S. State Department’s special honor.

Layda Negrete

“The U.S. secretary of state recognizes women who have demonstrated exceptional courage, determination and leadership in promoting human rights, social justice and women’s equality and progress,” the ambassador said in acknowledging Negrete’s contributions to improving Mexico’s justice system.

Negrete and co-director Roberto Hernandez – both lawyers-turned-filmmakers – made the 2010 documentary “Presunto culpable,” which tells the dramatic story of Mexican Jose Antonio “Toño” Zuñiga, a young man sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was convicted on the basis of false evidence and testimony.

Presumed Guilty

Zuñiga, who served two years in prison, was released after Negrete and Hernandez took up his case and filed an appeal, documenting acts of corruption in the criminal justice system.

Presunto culpable” is the highest-grossing documentary in Mexico’s history.

The U.S. Embassy said that with her films “Presunto culpable” and “El tunel,” an earlier courtroom documentary, Negrete has “provoked public indignation and generated popular support for the important reform approved in 2008 that will made Mexico’s justice system more transparent and efficient.”

For her part, Negrete dedicated the award to the network of civil organizations advocating for oral trials, saying their “continued persistence will not be halted by continued resistance.”

Negrete, who has more than 10 years of experience conducting research on criminal justice systems across Mexico, is currently a graduate student in Public Policy at UC Berkeley.