Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernández, the lawyers that co-directed Mexican documentary Presunto culpable / Presumed Guilty (pictured), were exonerated from 19 civil lawsuits that sought damages totaling the equivalent of $225 million USD.
Presumed Guilty, the 2008 film which became the highest grossing documentary feature in Mexican history, follows the case of Antonio Zúñiga, a man who got wrongly convicted for a murder that he didn't commit. With unprecedented access to the court rooms, lawyers Negrete and Hernández expose a justice system they see as corrupt and fatally compromised by a medieval concept of guilt and innocence.
The suits were filed by relatives of murder victim Juan Carlos Reyes, who was murdered in 2005. The family members, including Victor Reyes Bravo, a cousin of the victim whose testimony led to the conviction of Zúñiga, argued that they had suffered moral damage by the filmmakers. Reyes Bravo also claimed that he never gave the directors permission to include him in the film.
Judge Norma Alejandra Muñoz ruled in favor of Negrete and Hernández as it was announced last Friday. Zúñiga who had served two years in prision was released in 2008 after the filmmakers secured him a retrail and documented all the process in their documentary.
Presumed Guilty was released in Mexican theaters in 2011 and was banned temporarily few weeks later, a controversy which contributed to its popularity and success. Mexican television network Televisa broadcasted the documentary and the film was eventually released on dvd, in 2012 however, a federal judge ordered the complete shelving of all of the DVDs for sale of the film in Mexico after the lawsuits filled by the Reyes family against the filmmakers. After Friday's ruling, the film is now again authorized to be commercialized in the country.