Photo: Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez (Presumed Guilty)
Mexican lawyers-turned-filmmakers Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez, who showed in a documentary how an innocent man was convicted of homicide in the Mexican capital, have won a civil suit brought against them by relatives of the murder victim.
“We learned of the decision yesterday and we’re now studying it. It’s likely that ... the family and the witness will file an appeal,” the attorney for the producers, Javier Quijano, told MVS radio on Friday.
Judge Norma Alejandra Muñoz ruled in favor of Negrete and Hernandez, who was also the director of the documentary about the miscarriage of justice, titled “Presumed Guilty,” in two civil lawsuits that sought damages totaling 3 billion pesos (some $225 million).
The attorney said the suits were filed by relatives of Juan Carlos Reyes, who was murdered in 2005 in Mexico City. According to Mexican media, those family members argued in the civil case that they suffered “moral damage” because the filmmakers showed Reyes’ dead body and indicated the motive for the slaying.
Victor Reyes Bravo, a cousin of the victim whose testimony led to a Mexico City street vendor, Antonio Zuñiga, being wrongly convicted of the murder, also sued for moral damage.
Reyes Bravo, who admits on screen that he never saw the person who shot his cousin and did not know that Zuñiga tested negative for gunpowder residue, does not dispute the accuracy of the film.
But he filed the suit because he claims he never gave the filmmakers permission to include him in the work.
Zuñiga, who served two years in prison, was aquitted after Negrete and Hernandez secured him a retrial and documented in the film how the miscarriage of justice occurred.
The case was filmed every step of the way by Negrete and Hernandez, who obtained permission to put cameras in the courtroom during Zuñiga’s retrial.
The film was banned shortly after it was released but became a big hit on the pirate DVD market in Mexico.
“A precedent has been set ... this was a report, a work of investigative journalism and it’s protected by laws guaranteeing freedom of expression in our country,” Quijano said.
The producers still face another civil suit brought by the police officer who arrested Zuñiga and also is featured in the documentary.