Jose Alfredo Cardenas, Sergio Kurt Schmidt SandovalErick Valencia. All three are high-ranking cartel leaders who were arrested. And all three were released from custody, effectively walking right out of the courtroom.

How are these bosses managing to slip through justice, even after being arrested? In some cases it’s simply corruption, says Nathan Jones, drug cartel expert and professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State. More and more, criminals are walking free as a result of the judicial process.

“We’ve seen this trend of Mexican traffickers at the highest levels be able to manipulate the judicial system,” Jones says. “In some cases there looks like there are actually genuine flaws in how these individuals were arrested.”

He says that Mexico has been working to change its legal system, and in that process, mistakes have been made in arresting individuals. Cases are then thrown out because of procedural errors.

“Mexico has worked very hard to improve its judicial system over the last 10 years, switching form a Napoleonic system to an accusatorial system more like ours, an oral trial system,” Jones says. “When you make a mistake in the procedures i.e. how someone is arrested etc, it’s fruit of the poison tree; the evidence is inadmissible. And the price law enforcement pays is that the individual is free.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above

Written by Alexandra Hart

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