According to a front page story in Thursday's New York Times, Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto, "contends that there is a widespread perception that Mexican nationals cannot get a fair trial in Texas." The comment appeared in a story about Rosa Jimenez, an illegal Mexican immigrant who was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison for allegedly jamming five paper towels down the throat of a 21-month old child who died in her care.
The Times story contends that Jimenez, who was caring for the child of another illegal immigrant, and many other impoverished immigrants, received poor quality legal counsel and intimates that she was unfairly targeted by a racist prosecutor who said about the accused, "Despite being from Mexico, she's very intelligent."
The primary complaint regarding the legal counsel Ms. Jimenez received appears to be that they didn't have an adequate budget to secure the very best expert witnesses. It's hard to argue with the broader contention that our justice system favors the rich. If you have a great legal team, you might be able to get away with murder, and if you don't, it's possible you'll be put away for something you didn't do.
But that sad rule applies to poor people no matter what color they are and where they were born. Perhaps Mexico's president-elect is correct and most Mexicans think it isn't possible to get a fair trial in Texas, or anywhere else in the United States for that matter. But he's way out of line to tacitly endorse that sentiment.
If I was living illegally in Mexico and went on trial for killing a child there, God forbid, and couldn't afford to pay for my own defense, would the Mexican government spare no expense in getting me the best possible legal team and expert witnesses that money could buy? Give me a break. If I had a choice between being an American on trial for murder in Mexico or a Mexican on trial for murder in America, I'd rather be Mexican.
Yet, can you imagine the outrage if President Obama made disparaging remarks about Mexico's judicial system? I don't know if Ms. Jimenez is guilty or innocent. Much is made in the story about the fact that she has no violent past or criminal history, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility that she may have snapped, perhaps after failing to quiet the crying child.
As a parent of two young boys who aren't much older than the child who died, it seems hard for me to believe that a 21-month old would choke themselves on paper towels. It's possible but highly unlikely and that's probably why a jury convicted her. In any case, she deserves a fair process and I think she'll get it.
She may not have had the world's best legal team, but the U.S Supreme Court is now reviewing a petition for a retrial. If it looks like there are holes in the prosecution's case, she'll have another chance to tell her side of the story. Our process isn't perfect, but before Mexican officials take shots at it, they should work on improving their own judicial system.
Bookmark/Search this post with