Reasonable Doubt: A tale of Two Kidnappings has been directed by Roberto Hernández. It focuses on the Mexican Criminal Justice system, where an individual is presumed guilty even before the evidence points out the same. It gives us a disheartening ground report and makes us aware of the situation post a new Criminal Justice System was implemented by the government in 2016.
The documentary is based on the case study of five individuals who were charged for kidnapping, of which three of them are still serving their sentence without any proper evidence against them.
‘Reasonable Doubt’ Plot Summary – The Made-Up Story of the Kidnapping
Incident – 1
Hector Munoz was driving his car in Ciudad Pemex, Tabasco that comes under Macuspana municipality. It was late at night, and Hector was a bit intoxicated. His son suggested that he shouldn’t go to work in that state, but he disagreed. Suddenly, near a gas station, he saw a car that stopped in front of him. Hector became suspicious and, for his defense, grabbed onto a tool that was kept in the vehicle. He came out of his car and went to the window of the car that had stopped in front of him. To his horror, the man sitting inside the vehicle took out his gun and shot him. He got hurt in his hand, and he couldn’t understand what was happening. He started running towards the gas station. He jumped over a wall to hide in the bushes.
At that moment, he heard the siren of a Police vehicle. Taking a breath of relief, he went to the road and waved at the Police vehicle. He was about to narrate what had happened, but even before he could utter a word, the Police officials handcuffed him and told him that he was being arrested for kidnapping.
Incident – 2
On June 19th, 2015, Juan Luis Garcia and Gonzalo Hernandez, were leaving a town called Apatzingan that is a border town next to Guatemala. They often used to transport illegal immigrants or refugees. That night too, they were doing the same. After that, they went to Ciudad Pemex, where they had to stop as their vehicle overheated. Being awake throughout the night, they decided to rest for a few hours inside the vehicle itself. Their sleep was broken with a loud knock on the window. They saw a Police official standing there who asked them the reason for their halt. Their vehicle was searched, and then they were allowed to leave as nothing suspicious was found. They also reached the same gas station around the same time where Hector was being fired at, and the whole drama was unfolding. They were filling gas in their vehicle and saw the incident unfolding in front of their eyes.
The Police went and caught Hector and came back just to tell them that they were also being arrested for the same kidnapping. The Police officials told them that all three of them were being charged for kidnapping a Mr. ACP. He was the same individual who had shot Hector just moments back.
Incident – 3
Darwin Morales Ortiz and Guillermo, who worked together in a meat shop, left together in a car. All of a sudden, they were stopped by Police officials. The Police officials told them that they were being booked for driving a stolen car. Guillermo, at that moment, showed them the papers of the car that was in his name. They were taken into custody and were later told that they were being charged for kidnapping with three other people whom they hadn’t heard of before.
This was how the authorities found the accused in the case of Mr. ACP’s kidnapping. They fabricated a story, created a fictional narrative, linked three different sets of people, and charged them for kidnapping.
Andres Andrade – An Opportunity for a Fair Trial
Roberto Hernandez was making a documentary and, through it trying to assess the state of prisoners and the rights they are offered. He was trying to find out the actual on-ground status of how things had changed after the implementation of the new Criminal Justice System on June 18th, 2016. The reform bill had been passed by the Mexican congress in 2008, and since then, the transitional period was going on.
The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) pointed out that 79% of inmates in Mexican jails are tortured every day. They have no human rights and often are presumed to be guilty even before the law establishes it.
While doing his research, Roberto Hernandez found it to be true. He came across the case of Mr. ACP, where Hector, Gonzalo, Juan Luis, Darwin, and Guillermo had been assumed to be guilty on baseless arguments and false evidence. Garcia, who was Gonzalo Hernandez’s sister, kept calling Roberto because she felt that if he told her brother’s story to the world, then it might rekindle some hope for him to be free from the unjust clutches of an oppressive legal system.
Roberto realized that they were being reported by an incompetent lawyer who couldn’t care less for their getting them the promised freedom. So the first thing he did was to bring Andres Andrade, a competent and qualified lawyer, on board. They started doing their research work and found that the case was fabricated beyond imagination. There was a gross injustice happening without anybody daring to contest it as nobody wanted to dip their feet into the dirt.
Mrs. GLP’s shocking Testimony
Mrs. GLP was the sister of the victim who had been kidnapped. He had testified in the court of law that Hector, Gonzalo, Juan Luis, Darwin, and Guillermo were the ones who had kidnapped her brother. Later after many years, she confirmed she had no clue who those people were. She was told to testify to them, and the Police officials had led her into believing that they were the real convicts. It made everybody’s life easier.
Dr. Worral, who was an expert in reconstructing the crime scene, did so and found some anomalies in the story of Mr. ACP, who had told the court that he had shot Hector in self-defense. The court rejected the whole theory as the vehicle used in the reconstruction was not the same as the actual incident. Dr. Worral and the defense attorneys were surprised beyond measure at the impunity being enjoyed by the authorities based on an unjust and unreasonable argument.
‘Reasonable Doubt’ Ending Explained
Andres Andrade left the case due to serious threats to his life. Iker Ibarreche took over the case in 2020. Hector, Gonzalo, and Juan Luis had spent 2268 days in prison, and the remedy of a constitutional appeal had not been evaluated till then. They wait every day in the prison without even an iota of hope that they ever get freedom. Their families keep fighting hard to get their loved one’s justice. A corrupt bureaucratic system and an unjust judicial procedure have left them and others like them wondering over fact that who should an individual go to in case of such a gross violation of human rights. None of the officers were charged for the torture and, in fact, were given greater responsibilities and positions.
The main reason behind changing the Criminal Justice system was that coerced confession could not form the basis of any legal trial. But the corruption was such that the actual perpetrators hiding behind the veil of an unjust system also found loopholes in the new framework.
Hope is the fuel of life, but how do you keep your beliefs intact and your hopes alive when an oppressive system blindfolds you for so long that you forget how it was to feel the warmth of the sunlight.
Reasonable Doubt: A tale of Two Kidnappings is a 2021 Crime Investigative Documentary directed by Roberto Hernández. It is streaming on Netflix.