Mexico City - The new accusatory penal system, which employs oral trials rather than the submission of written evidence reviewed behind closed doors, began on February 29 in nine states of the country, including Mexico City, Nuevo Leon and the State of Mexico.
The new system will apply to prosecute federal crimes, which has represented the greatest challenge to the Federal Judiciary Council (CJF) and the Attorney General's Office (PGR) since the reform was published in June 2008.
The CJF signed agreements last Friday that will see the creation of eleven new federal criminal justice centers. Three of these will be in Mexico City - one in each of the capital's federal prisons.
The three judges assigned to the centers in Mexico City were appointed on February 22, although construction, which began last September, is only about 50% complete. The new centers will have an overall cost of 915 million pesos ($50.64 million USD) as the works were contracted by direct award due to the lack of time.
CJF councilman Alfonso Pérez Daza explained, "It is impossible to issue tenders for the construction of the three needed centers, then allocations, and finish building in a four-month period. We're subjected to the times established in the constitution."
According to Pérez, the judges' offices will be located temporarily in the city's justice centers, and the lack of infrastructure won't hinder the implementation of the new system.
The new adversarial criminal justice system already operates at the federal level in 15 states, but it has gone largely unnoticed because, among other reasons, it applies only to crimes committed after the system's implementation date.
Only 215 cases were initiated during January in the courts of the 15 states that operate under the new system. Moreover, almost all of the cases recorded by the PGR have been minor non-drug dealing and weapons possession charges.
The figures, concluded the CJF, imply that a large legal staff and premises aren't immediately needed, as the new system will grow slowly but steadily in the next few years. "So far, one court per state has been enough," said Pérez.
The 15 states that have fully implemented the new system at the federal level are Durango, Puebla, Yucatán, Zacatecas, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Tlaxcala and Sinaloa.
Those states were joined this week by Mexico City, Nuevo León, the State of México, Aguascalientes, Colima, Quintana Roo, Morelos, Tabasco and Hidalgo.
The 8 remaining states will be applying the new system in two separate stages: Campeche, Sonora, Veracruz and Michoacán will do so on April 29, while Baja California, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Guerrero and Islas Marias will do so on June 14, just 4 days before the deadline set by the Constitution.This article, originally published (in Spanish) on Reforma.com, was translated and edited by Ricardo Acerco for BanderasNews.com.