Attorneys gathered from all over Latin America for the Red Inocente! Second Annual Latin American Innocence Conference last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Over a span of three days, Enrique Piñeyro, the Director of the newly established Innocence Project Argentina, graciously welcomed participants from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, México, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Puerto Rico. The group included attorneys, law students, judges, academics, politicians, scientists, and members of the media.
Piñeyro, also an accomplished Argentine film director, hosted the conference and organized speakers on an array of topics. Attorneys spoke about evidentiary issues. Experts spoke about the criminalization of the poverty in the Latin American jails and corruption in the judiciary. California Innocence Project exoneree, Rafael Madrigal, spoke about the seven years he spent in prison after he was wrongly convicted for an attempted murder in Orange County, California. Exoneree, Eric Volz from Nicaragua, also spoke on his international experience resulting from his wrongful murder conviction. Both of these talks allowed people to hear about the real-life experiences of those unjustly sent to prison and illustrated why innocence work is so important throughout the world.
This conference was the second conference of its kind. The first conference was held in 2012 in Santiago de Chile. Since the conference in Chile, innocence projects have taken root in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. The directors of these projects, as well as the director of the already long-established project in Colombia, were able to speak to the group and relay the problems, challenges, and successes of their work in their respective countries.
Piñeyro also showcased his documentary, The Rati Horror Show, to demonstrate the corruption and serious problems of the Argentine judicial system. The documentary was pivotal in the release of Fernando Carrera, who was convicted of murder because the police altered evidence at the scene of the crime and manipulated witness testimony. Carrera, in an unexpected Argentina Supreme Court decision, was ordered back to prison when the Court denied the decision by the lower court to reverse his conviction. Carrera’s attorneys also participated in a forum where participants were allowed to ask them questions about the judicial decisions and the facts surrounding the underlying conviction.
The Mexican documentary, Presunto Culpable, was also shown at the conference. The film vividly illustrates the struggle to exonerate an innocent man in the deeply flawed Mexican justice system.
Red Inocente! hopes to organize a conference for Latin American innocence projects every year to continue to share information, experiences, and knowledge. The conference will be held in Bogotá, Colombia in October of 2014. Red Inocente! is a non-profit legal and education program designed to offer assistance to those who are trying to help secure the release of innocent prisoners in Latin America, promote legislative reforms to reduce the number of wrongful convictions, and offer information on latest developments in forensic science and law to the lawyers who litigate these cases.
Follow me on Twitter @justinobrooks