Film by public policy grad students wins Emmy

September 27, 2011
By: Cathy Cockrell, NewsCenter

In light of the competition, Roberto Hernández didn’t expect to take home a trophy from Monday night’s News & Documentary Emmy ceremony in New York.


Hernandez and Negrete.
Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete

But win he did — for outstanding investigative journalism — along with his wife and fellow UC Berkeley grad student, Layda Negrete, and fellow makers of “Presumed Guilty” (“Presunto Culpable”).

When the win was announced, Hernández took the stage, his heart racing, along with Antonio “Toño” Zúñiga (whose court case, based on a first-degree murder charge, the film follows), Zúñiga ‘s defense attorney and crew members and promoters from Mexico.

Dazed and elated, Hernández eschewed the usual acceptance-speech formula to dedicate the film’s Emmy to Troy Davis, the Georgia state prisoner who was executed Sept. 21 despite international appeals to re-examine his case.

“You have a chance to make a 30-second speech,” Hernández says of his statement. “Once you start thanking people, you’re out of your 30 seconds.”

Instead, Hernández noted that while Mexico has a long way to go to improve its justice system, unlike the U.S. it has no death penalty. “That’s why we were able to save Toño,” Hernández says, “and why Troy Davis is not longer here.”

“Presumed Guilty” was nominated for three Emmys — outstanding investigative journalism (long form), best documentary and best research — and has received some 20 festival awards, in many countries. Hernández attributes the film’s international accolades to the fact that “it’s affected the hearts of people. They can imagine themselves in Antonio’s shoes, where only a camera can save your life.”

The day after the Emmy ceremony, he flew to Washington D.C. to show “Presumed Guilty” to staff at the World Bank.

“They lend money to countries,” Hernández notes. “One of the things they can do is put conditions, including human rights obligations, on the money they lend.”

Related information:

Gana “Presunto culpable” un Emmy por periodismo de investigación (Spanish-language news report on Emmy win)
Grad students’ doc on Mexican justice is up for three Emmys (NewsCenter article)
Two lawyers with cameras help rehabilitate Mexican ‘justice’ (NewsCenter article, Dec. 2008)
• En español: Dos abogados Mexicanos, con sus cámaras, ayudan a reformar el sistema judicial de su país
PBS film tells story of lawyers’ struggle to free Antonio Zúñiga (BerkeleyLaw article, 2010)
Bungled censorship on the silver screen (Economist article, March 2011)
• “Presunto Culpable” website, with trailer