Tag Archives: legal procedures in Mexico

And Justice for All?

There was no justice to be had for this man in Moroleón.

There was no justice to be had for this man in Moroleón.

The court proceedings concerning the moto accident between my in-laws and the police finally occurred a year and a half after my mother-in-law’s death (See on Life and Liberty). During the month of September, my father-in-law reported to court an average of 2-3 times per week.

So 2-3 times per week, my father-in-law rode his bicycle from La Yacata to the courthouse or the lawyer’s office.

This legal process was exasperated when the police officer involved or his lawyer or the witnesses did not appear in court and my father-in-law spent hours cooling his heels in the outer office.

We thought that perhaps that the no-shows would be in my father-in-law’s favor. Little did we realize that their absence was a mark of how trivial they felt these proceedings to be since they already knew what the outcome would be.

Decisions of guilt or innocence are not determined by a jury of your peers in México, but by the sole discretion of the judge. In Moroleón, all penal cases are determined by La Juez, whose children I had been teaching for several years. I had come to respect her over the years and appreciated her advice during the difficult week when my mother-in-law died and Chuchi slapped me with a demanda (See The First Demanda and La Novena). However, mitigating this esteem was the fact that her husband was the forensic specialist for the police in Moroleón. And him I was never too impressed with. The forensic evidence submitted by the police included a film of an accident that wasn’t with my in-laws and a dent in the driver’s side door which was used as conclusive “proof” that the moto hit the truck and, therefore, the fault of my father-in-law, completely discounting the conflicting evidence of the injuries sustained by my in-laws.

Forensics here is proclaimed the new messiah and unlike CSI, there is no attempt to find logical connections between the evidence and the action. For instance, if your fingerprints are on your own wallet that was stolen, the judge might determine that you yourself gave the wallet to the thief since there were no other fingerprints on it. Whatever!

With such logic, a dent in the door must mean that the moto hit the truck and caused the accident, not that the force of the impact caused the moto to spin from the front of the truck around to the opposite side and hit the door after throwing the passengers into the air–or so it would seem.

Despite witness testimony, despite testimony from my father-in-law, despite the injuries sustained by my in-laws all charges against the police officer were dropped and instead the charges were laid at my father-in-law’s feet for him to disprove. He awaits sentencing at the end of the month.

An appeal has been submitted to the district court in Celaya, but no court date has been set.

************************

disclosure

Advertisements

14 Comments

Filed under Safety and Security

Demanda 3…. What the….?

Just when things looked like they were wrapping up with the second lawsuit (see Demanda 2 and the Visit from Desorrollo Urbano) and we could proceed with projects estimates for the water, sewer and electric in La Yacata, there came another demanda (lawsuit). Unbelievable! This demanda (lawsuit) was from the very same perforador del pozo (well-hole driller) that sent the first lawsuit (See Demanda 1) and for the same reason. He claimed that La Yacata owed him money for services rendered, this time in the amount of $500,000 pesos plus interests and court costs.

Since the judge ruled in our favor in the first lawsuit, we had assumed that would be the end of it, because no case can be reopened once the final verdict has been rendered. Not so folks! The claimant (el perforador del pozo well-hole driller) submitted a Pagaré (promissory note) and a claim that did not specify why La Yacata owes him money, just that the community does.

pagare

Promissory note

Our mutual acquaintance Chuchi had been summoned to give a confessional (testimonial) about the details of this debt, because of his good moral character (or so the summons read). I asked Super Prez if we could submit questions to the confessional. Lying before the judge carries a hefty fine and jail time so he may be more apt to tell the truth and finally finish this travesty of the justice system. He said he would look into it with R2, who continued to be our legal representative.
The basis of this lawsuit was the Pagaré (promissory note) and a copy of it was included in the summons. It was dated 2007 and signed by Chuchi with p.p. in front of his name. This p.p. is the legal abbreviation (por poder) and indicated that Chuchi was the legal representative of the community. However, in 2007, R was the registered president of La Yacata and we have the testamento (document) to prove it. The amount of the Pagaré (promissory note) was an even $500,000, half the amount of the first lawsuit. The address of the debtor was listed as calle Puebla (Puebla Street) which was where Super Prez currently has his own private business office, not Chuchi. Super Prez did not open his office until 2008 and had the town registration to prove it.

On the back of the Pagaré (promissory note) was the handwritten notation that the well-hole driller dude received two payments on the interest, one in 2009 for $1,200 and another in 2011 for $1,500. Writing anything but the names, address and signatures of the guaranteers on the back of a promissory note invalidates it, but I guess no one told him this. Furthermore, in 2011, J was the registered president of La Yacata, not Chuchi and I was the treasurer and I certainly didn’t authorize any payments for a well from the community funds.

So the first Monday in June, I went to drop off some papers at Super Prez’s office and chat about La Yacata progress when he informed me that he was to report to court that morning and I was scheduled for Tuesday. He had known since Saturday afternoon but didn’t want to tell me so that I wouldn’t spend Sunday fretting about it. He also said that R2 was on his way to the office, so I should wait there to talk to him. So I did.

As R2 was going over some of the questions Super Prez would be asked, I pointed out that I was the treasurer of the association when the second payment on interest was supposedly made, so I knew for a fact that the community hadn’t made a payment because I had never received a request for payment nor made a payment from the community funds. R2 was so pleased with this information that he clapped his hands, however, it occurred to me that as our legal representative, he should have already known that.

So Tuesday came and I arrived at the juzgados (courthouse) at 10:30 as requested. R2 arrived 15 minutes later (early for Mexican time) with R’s wife. I never quite understood why she was brought to testify since R was president and then secretary of the association and a person can not be represented by another person, but perhaps it was because R was currently out of the country. Regardless, she was called to be the first witness, then me, then…could this be…Chuchi!

Chuchi arrived at 11:00 and was greeted by R2, if not warmly, then at least with a handshake. R’s wife and I nodded our heads at him and turned away. Chuchi was, at least, clean, if not well dressed for a court appearance in khakis and t-shirt. He also carried a used water bottle. It appeared he brought his own courage (vodka) with him.
R2 took me outside and gave me a general gist of what his questions would be. I was a little concerned about the first one–what my name is and spent some time practicing in my mind while I waited. The problem was that my Mexican identification used my married name but the notario (lawyer) that registered the mesa directiva (community council) used my maiden name since women in Mexico do not change their names when they marry and to top it all off he spelled my maiden name wrong.  So I was not sure how to answer that question.

So R’s wife went in for her testimony and Chuchi and I waited outside. After about an hour of waiting, it was my turn. I thought we would actually be in a courtroom, but no. Our testimonies were recorded in an office room with what seemed to be acoustic panels on the walls, drawn blinds, a computer that looked to be from the 1980’s and bright blue office roller chairs. I admit I was hard pressed not to spin on my chair during questioning.

R2, the female lawyer representing the pozo guy, the secretary and myself were the only people in the room. R’s wife was sent out at first but since Chuchi was outside, she was called back in so that the two witnesses would not collaborate on their answers.

I needn’t have worried so much about the name question. The secretary used my identification to get the information. Then I was asked where I was born, if I lived in México now, if I was related to the pozo guy or Super Prez and whether I could read and write. I later asked R’s wife if she had been asked the same and she said yes, even the same questions about the case, so I didn’t feel as affronted about being asked if I could read and write after that.

The questions and answers from R’s wife were already in the computer and when I answered, the secretary only changed answers. I was a bit worried when at question 7 the computer shut down, but only the last question was lost.

I was asked whether I had any interest in the outcome of the case, whether I had any malice toward the pozo guy, whether I knew the pozo guy and whether abonos (payments) had been made by the association, all of which were no. I was asked whether I knew Super Prez and since when, whether I knew Chuchi and since when, whether Chuchi had been president of the association and when, and when we began using the office on Puebla, all of which I could answer easily. I must not have been as wordy as was expected since the secretary would ask me “y qué” when I would answer with a sí or no. The final question on the list was not allowed by the judge, so I wasn’t given an opportunity to answer it.

I was never asked directly how I knew this information, so I hope that point was made clear through the copies of the testamentos (documents) that registered the 3 presidents of the asociación since Chuchi was ousted and their councils. I also didn’t think I answered some of the dates well since I didn’t have the exact dates and could only give years, but I answered truthfully so no jail time or fine in the future for me.

R’s wife and I were then sent out of the room while Chuchi and his bottle entered for testimony. She and I had a chance to talk a bit. She seems nice and normal, not like R who sometimes se van las chivas–or in other words gets off track. She had known my mother-in-law and even remembered that it had been a year since her death, however, I don’t remember seeing her at any of the funeral services last year, just her husband.

When Chuchi came out, he wasn’t happy and neither was the lawyer for the prosecution. R2 slipped out and gave us the ok sign, pleased with the way things were going. Then we had to wait while the testimonies were printed out and given to the judge for his approval to be admitted as evidence in the case, then sign every page of our testimonies. While we were waiting for all of this to be completed, Chuchi gave different lawyer $500 pesos right in front of R’s wife and myself. As we were leaving R’s wife commented on this to R2, identifying the lawyer to him, and he wasn’t pleased but said it must have been on some other matter. Chuchi also tried to talk to the female lawyer that was legal representation for the pozo guy and explain that he had never turned over the accounts because they had been asked for 3 months after the new mesa directiva (community committee) had been elected. The lawyer’s response was to put up her hand signaling that she didn’t want to hear any more and turn away. If it comes down to nit-picking about dates, I have a dated copy of the letter we took to his office to formally request the documentation and others can be called in to testify that he was publicly requested to hand over the papers at the junta (meeting) prior to the letter and refused in front of more than 30 colonos (property owners). (See The Battle for Power)

Another lawyer greeted Chuchi while we waited and asked if he was promoting himself politically. Chuchi was the candidate for PT in the last election campaigns and recently was in the newspaper posing with the PT representative for Guanajuato. (See Politicking) Chuchi made no response and the lawyer went on to say that instead of being here in court, he should be campaigning in the colonias (neighborhoods) because that is where la vida (life) is and then he left.

Finally, we were able to leave at nearly 2:00 in the afternoon. My faithful husband had waited outside for me and was a bit cranky having not eaten his lunch yet. We arrived in La Yacata just in time to see the woman who delivers the summons for court drop off a summons for my father-in-law.  I haven’t yet heard the outcome of that particular summons.

On a post script to the day’s adventures, R2 was contacted by both Chuchi and the pozo guy to see if we could reach an acuerdo (agreement).  I don’t know what they think to bargain with as the items we want (the permit to drill a well and the certificate to the water rights) were never obtained by them.  Plus there is that little matter of court costs.  Just for the first demanda (lawsuit), la colonia (neighborhood) owes R2 $100,000 pesos.  When the verdict for the second demanda (lawsuit) is rendered, we will owe more money.  Then, of course, there is this one.  And as a third point, I am not sure that the lawsuit can be stopped at this point.  Then there is the idea of justice that hasn’t been satisfied, at least for those of us that have been defrauded by these men.  So I guess we will see what they have to offer and go from there.

**********************

disclosure

10 Comments

Filed under La Yacata Revolution

The second demanda Phase 9

Entrance sign to La Yacata

Not to be outdone, Chuchi sent his own demanda (lawsuit) in early May. He attempted to have it delivered to our house in La Yacata, however as there is no legal address, I refused to accept it. So it made it’s way to Super Prez’s office and then to R’s office.

In May, my mother-in-law’s accident drove the thought of this second demanda (lawsuit) from my mind. I was busy with hospital visits and trying to help with all the animals at our house and at my in-law’s house in order to allow my father-in-law and husband to be at the hospital as much as possible.

But then I received a summons. I was to stay at my house and await the demanda (lawsuit) on Friday. So I waited, but the delivery person didn’t come. So my husband, myself and el profe went to the courthouse. I told the secretaries there that no one had come and furthermore, my mother-in-law was in the hospital due to an accident caused by a police officer and not expected to live so I didn’t have time for this crap (or words to that effect).

By then I was in a state of hysterics and went to see Super Prez. I did not want any lawsuit that named me specifically because I would be responsible for payment if we lost. Also, I was in the midst of applying for citizenship, so didn’t want anything to effect that. Super Prez said he wasn’t sure why I was summoned as I was merely the treasurer, not the president of the association, but that he was confident that it would all work out.

I wasn’t satisfied with that, so I went elsewhere. I knew important people too, or rather I taught their kids. I had been teaching English to 3 children whose father was a lawyer and whose mother was a judge. It was la juez (the judge) I was interested in seeing. I went to the house and asked to speak with her. I explained I didn’t know what the summons was for and that no one would give me any information in the office and that my mother-in-law was dying and so I was a bit hysterical. She called the person who was supposed to deliver the summons and asked that it be explained to her, then she explained it to me.

The demanda (lawsuit) was from Chuchi, as I had thought, for a cantidad de agua (water permit) that he had supposedly obtained for the colonia (neighborhood). My name was on the demanda (lawsuit) because I was the treasurer, therefore, the current legal financial officer of the association. La juez (the judge) asked that the demanda (lawsuit) be delivered to her and she would then send it on to me. She also said that it would in no way affect my application for citizenship.

Feeling somewhat reassured, I continued doing what I could for my mother-in-law, although in the end, it was little enough. She died at the end of May.

The day after her death, R called me and asked if I would be available to sign some papers. I told him I would be at my brother-in-law’s place as we prepared for the wake. R arrived before I did and handed me some things to sign. I said that I would read them before I signed, which he seemed to think unnecessary, but read them I did, standing outside in the blazing sun.

These papers were the response to the demanda (lawsuit) maintaining that the people of La Yacata were not receiving benefits from the water permit obtained by Chuchi (we didn’t have water), that there was no well (only a hole in the ground) and that this hole was outside of La Yacata (it was dug in an area that didn’t have escritoras (undeeded land). I read everything again, signed, and went inside to set up chairs for the wake.

We buried my mother-in-law and I didn’t hear anything more about the lawsuit for a few days. Super Prez, R, and R2 came to the wake, as did all candidates for Moroleón presidency. After the burial, we prepared for the novena (9 days of prayer for the soul of the deceased to be released from purgatory).

The day of the first novena (prayers for the soul of the recently departed), la juez (the judge) called and asked me to come to her house about the demanda (lawsuit), so I did. She asked if we had responded to the charge. Remember there is only a 9-day period to respond or the accuser wins automatically. I said that I was pretty sure that we had, but she insisted that I call R and ask. She isn’t the sort of person you argue with, so I did. I then went to see Super Prez in his office and asked him as well. He gave me a copy of the response, so I felt reassured. Then I went back to the novena (prayer session).

In June, I was called to los juzgados (court) to give a confesión (confession). It’s an odd term, but basically, I was to go and answer some questions the judge would ask me that had been sent by the opposing lawyer. I was very nervous about this. Suppose my F2 identification wasn’t acceptable. Suppose I didn’t understand the question. Suppose I answered incorrectly.

I met with R2 before the confesión. He suggested I ask for the judge to repeat anything I didn’t understand and answer with yes or no whenever possible. He said that R and Super Prez had already gone through the questioning and gave me a general idea of what sort of questions would be asked. And then it was my turn.

The judge asked me if I knew Chuchi. I said yes. He asked if I was the treasurer of La Yacata. I said yes. He asked if I knew Super Prez and R. I said yes. He asked if La Yacata was receiving benefits from the water permit obtained by Chuchi. I said no. He asked if I knew that I was responsible for paying for contracts made by the association. I had to ask that be repeated. My answer was yes, those contracts that were approved by the association. This point was crucial because Chuchi never got approval for any of the projects he began and without approval, we weren’t legally responsible for contracts he signed. And then it was over.

I met briefly with R2 to tell him the questions and my answers and he seemed well satisfied.

In July, the judge made a visit to La Yacata to inspect the site of the pozo (well). A few days previous, Super Prez had my husband put up a barb wire and post fence marking the end of the area that had escritoras (deeds) so that the judge could see that the alleged pozo (the hole that supposedly is a well) was outside of those limits. So we met in La Yacata, Chuchi, his lawyer and perito (surveyor), the judge, his secretary, Super Prez, R, R2 and me. We had to leave the cars below and hike up a bit, which didn’t please the judge too well.

pozo bucket

This is what the pozo (well) looks like in La Yacata.

We walked about, took pictures and the lawyers made statements. R2 said that the pozo (well hole) was outside the area with escritoras (deed). Chuchi’s surveyor pulled out the plan to disprove that, only he had the plan turned the wrong way. I didn’t win his thanks by pointing that out. Then Chuchi’s lawyer said that we (the colonos) were receiving water benefits from the pozo (well) and the judge asked what well that was. There were no pipes or pump or water storage tower to get water from the hole to the houses. But he did admit that there was water in the hole, tested by dropping pebbles and waiting for a splash. I pointed out that since we were in the rainy season, there was water everywhere. The judge noted in his report that he couldn’t say if there would be water in the hole during the dry season, but that in July there was water.

Then we all trooped back to the cars for paper signing. I didn’t have my identification on me and was anxiously asking if I needed to go and get it, but Super Prez told me to wait a minute. I didn’t need it after all as he had R2 take my name off the demanda (lawsuit) and therefore, I didn’t have to sign anything. More importantly, if things were to go against us, I wouldn’t be personally responsible for the money owed. What a relief!

We presented this information at the next junta (community meeting). I had hoped this would help unite us once again, and open wallets for the $250 peso cuota (charge). But it seems that R2 (who had been the president of Moroleón before the current president) had made some enemies. And some of those enemies were property owners in La Yacata. When they found out that R2 was representing us legally, they complained.

I had mentioned this same concern to Super Prez earlier. I said that R2 had left office none too clean and that it’s possible that we would be unwise to trust in him. He agreed but hoped that since R was his brother and mentioned in the lawsuit as well, that R2 would have to do the right thing in this case.

Be that as it may, several colonos (associates) wanted to look for another lawyer. They thought it suspicious that R’s brother was our legal representative. I spoke up then. I said that we hadn’t called a junta (meeting) at the time we received the demanda (lawsuit) because my mother-in-law had died. As my husband and I are the ones that deliver the flyers and make the radio announcements for the community meetings, we were unable to do so within the 9 days we had to answer the charge because of the funeral. I admitted that R and R2 may have taken undue advantage of the situation and apologized to the community (neither R or R2 happened to be present at the meeting.) however what was done, was done and the only thing we could do at present was meet our financial obligations as best we could.

As of March 2013, we are still waiting on an end to this demanda (lawsuit). It looks good for us. We have successfully proved that the people of La Yacata are not receiving benefits from this water permit, as we don’t have any water. We have also proved that there is no pozo (well) at the site indicated by Chuchi. But it’s the third point that we are awaiting resolution on, whether the hole is inside or outside the legally deeded area. Our perito (surveyor) said no. Chuchi’s perito (surveyor) said yes. So the judge appointed a neutral surveyor to make an inspection in October. Well, as far as we know, he didn’t do an inspection in October or November and as in December and January the court is recessed for Christmas vacation and then Moroleón Days, we are in February still waiting for a verdict.

*********************

disclosure

15 Comments

Filed under La Yacata Revolution, Water issues