Film inspires

By Ana Lucia Sanchez

The Second Annual Champaign-Urbana Prison Arts Festival presented “Mario’s Story” at the Independent Media Center, a film that raised questions regarding the inherent injustice of our prison system. The film is about Mario Rocha, a California teenager wrongfully convicted for murder. At his trial, a single eyewitness identified Mario as one of three shooters responsible for multiple homicides after a fight turned deadly. Sadly, Mario’s attorney at the trial did not challenge the eyewitness identification testimony or call any witnesses to rebut it. Also, Mario was incorrectly identified as a gang member, thus associating him with pubic enemy number one in Los Angeles. Again, his attorney failed to challenge this even though Mario was never a member of any gang and countless witnesses including police officers were available to testify to this fact. This movie chronicled the 10-year journey of Mario’s new legal team and its efforts to free Mario.

The Sixth Amendment of our Bill of Rights guarantees each citizen the right to “confront the witnesses against him,” to “obtain witnesses in his favor,” and to have “assistance of counsel for his defense.” This movie highlights the mistakes and injustices that are rampant in our criminal justice system. This movie demonstrates that there are two systems of justice in this country: one for the rich and one for the poor. In a society founded on justice, the innocent should never be charged nor convicted. For Mario, the inequality in our system allowed this conviction and resulted in 10 years lost behind bars. It is essential for a society based on the rule of law to have equality and transparency. This film demonstrates despite overwhelming odds, institutional racism, and long legal delays, that a man filled with dignity and hope can receive justice.

Ana Lucia Sanchez

senior in LAS