Below is an essay by Sergio Leal, a law student who is an intern at my office. I asked him to reflect on his visit to the US and to impart with some of his observations about our legal system and our lives, lifestyle, etc. Here is his latest essay:
As I did a comparison of life in New York and Puebla, I also want to take this opportunity to make a comparison to something that is related to my future profession. Last month I had the opportunity to visit the courthouse of Staten Island and see some hearings of a murder trial.
In Mexico our system of law has its origins in the Roman-Germanic law called civil law and the United States has a system called common law which has Anglo-Saxon origins. The differences in our systems lead to a big difference in the conduct of a trial.
In Mexico we have a judge and no jury, and the course of the trial which is mostly written. By written I mean that the filing of the complaint and the analysis of the evidence, presentation of evidence and sentencing are issued on paper by the judge.
The judge does not present valuations orally, the whole trial takes place in a record in which, both requests and responses are written.
In Mexico corruption is something you notice when entering a courthouse, handshakes between officials and lawyers with cash hidden to close transactions, to obtain favorable resolutions.
In the court of Staten Island I perceived a more organized environment in which the cases are quickly and efficiently attended.
While I noticed many favorable things, I also noticed some things not so favorable.
The use of a jury gives the advantage that the defendant is convicted or forgiven by ordinary citizens, also it involves a problem.
By choosing citizens to value the evidence and not letting them take notes, this may hinder the administration of justice and lead to the performance and skill conviction of the lawyer or the prosecutor, being the only element on which the jury could base its deliberation.
the jury is exposed to expert opinions about DNA, ballistics, forensic experts; who analyzed the evidence and expose them to the jury.
Me as a law student even had some trouble on understanding when experts exposed the evidence, I imagine that for a citizen who are not law, DNA or forensic experts, is difficult for them to make an objective valuation of the evidence.
Such situations expand more my perception on the implementation of the law in this country, and lead me to understand that no justice system is perfect. While no system is perfect I think Mexico needs to eradicate corruption which is highly evident in its justice administration system.