In the Mexican penal system, one is guilty until proven innocent. This leads to a very uncomfortable reality: prisons full of people serving time for crimes they didn't commit. Presumed Guilty narrates the story of José Antonio Zúñiga Rodriguez, nicknamed Toño, who was mistakenly accused of murder and condemned to twenty years in jail for being poor and in the wrong place at the wrong time. His case would have been one of many unfortunate stories, but lawyers Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete decided to get involved and publicize the injustice. Presumed Guilty shows how Toño's strength and creativity help him through nearly three years of wrongful imprisonment. Courtroom scenes chillingly call to mind Kafka's The Trial, so absurd is the mindless bureaucracy in the judicial process. Toño is retried by the same judge who condemned him. The prosecutor is concerned only with the previous case file and has no interest in new information. Hernández and Negrete uncover a frustrating, labyrinthine legal system defended by mediocre civil servants and corrupt police officers. At a time when there is a strong push for the death penalty in Mexico, Presumed Guilty is important not only as a document of the system's flaws, but as a vehicle for change. —Diana Sanchez

Film information
Running time: 
91 minutes
Roberto Hernández , Geoffrey Smith
Country of production: