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Mexico’s First Forensic Science Masters Program In Baja California

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Aired 3/25/11

Mexico is in the process of overhauling its justice system. Suspects will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The country plans to do away with written trials in favor of oral ones, like in the United States. For the first time, forensic workers will be called as expert witnesses to present scientific evidence.

Mexico is in the process of overhauling its justice system. Suspects will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The country plans to do away with written trials in favor of oral ones, like in the United States. For the first time, forensic workers will be called as expert witnesses to present scientific evidence.

In order to help train forensic professionals, the state of Baja California and San Diego State University have teamed up to create a forensic-science masters program. It's the first federally accredited program of its kind in Mexico.

Alfredo Rodriguez directs the new masters program. He said Baja California is relatively advanced in terms of its forensic science.

"But, some states are way behind. They do autopsies in the dirt. There aren't morgues or crime labs. There are enormous discrepancies." Rodriguez said. "Throughout Mexico, the forensic system is archaic and workers don't have specialized training. We need to teach workers how to perform according to international standards."

Jeffrey Mc Ilwain, who helps direct SDSU's graduate program in homeland security, said the new masters program is part CSI, part law school 101.

"Forensic professionals have never had to serve under cross examination or provide testimony, so they're very simple things. What are the various things when a professional, when called into a court, (needs to knw)? Basically, maintaining evidentiary standards under the new laws ... and (we are) providing that information," said Mc Ilwain.

SDSU helped craft the syllabus and its professors will help teach the 70 students. The curriculum includes 10 areas of specialization, including psychology, pathology and crime-scene analysis. San Diego County's Medical Examiner, the FBI and the DEA will also participate.

Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno said Mexico's justice system has long depended on the confession. "The confession won't be so relevant when courts have evidence based on science and technology," says Moreno.

The two-year program is based in Tecate at Baja California's State Police Academy.

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