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For Immediate Release

Rights Group: Mexico Disregards Forensic Findings in Probe of US Reporter's Death

Cambridge, Mass - 10/19/2009

Prosecutor's Flawed Case May Have Led to Wrongful Arrest and Possibility that Real Killer Remains at Large

(Cambridge, Mass.) — Forensic experts with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reaffirm that the Mexican Attorney General's Office (PGR) has disregarded the available scientific evidence from the 2006 shooting death of American journalist Brad Will. PHR's review of the available evidence undercuts Mexico's theory that the fatal shot was fired from the reporter's immediate vicinity. Therefore, PHR is concerned over the likelihood that the wrong person remains in jail, charged with murder, while the real killer remains at large.

According to PHR, the Mexican prosecutor has deflected serious questions raised by its rigorous review of all available evidence. Will was one of at least 13 individuals who were fatally shot during protests in Oaxaca in 2006.

"From the documentation we recently received from the PGR, it is clear that there is no intention to allow forensic science to factor into the investigation of the case,”"says Stefan Schmitt, Director of PHR's International Forensic Program. "I see nothing in the scientific evidence that would indicate that Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, who is accused of having stood in Brad Will's vicinity and shot him, could have physically done so. In misrepresenting the facts, the PGR is clearly intent on making Will's death look like a singular homicide and refraining from looking at the possibility that it might be linked to the clear pattern of unsolved gunshot-related deaths that happened at the time in Oaxaca."

PHR's independent forensic review conducted in March 2008 concluded that one of the projectiles ricocheted off a red object, deforming the projectile and transferring traces of red paint to it, before fatally striking Brad Will.

"There is no evidence of an intermediary red object close to the victim off of which the projectile could have ricocheted," continued Schmitt.

The PGR has continued to ignore PHR's ricochet finding in Mexico's so-called crime scene reconstructions. The prosecutor's theory is that a bystander, close to Brad Will, shot him, and that the red paint was the result of an analyst marking the projectile for identification.

However, PHR says that according to documents provided by the PGR, it is now abundantly clear that even the PGR's own investigation does not support the claim that the red paint discovered by PHR's firearms expert on the projectile is the result of someone marking it. In a sworn statement by the firearms examiner in Oaxaca who first examined the projectiles, it is evident that the paint discovered by PHR on the ricochet projectile was not the result of the analyst's markings. According to that statement, projectiles are marked on the base, not in areas which are of analytical value. This is significant because the traces of red paint, documented by PHR's Firearms Examiner during his analysis of the projectiles in March 2008, are not located on the base.

PHR also points out that the PGR's own forensic investigation reports that the chemical composition of the paint on the projectile in question does not match the paint sample obtained from the Oaxacan prosecutor's office — presumably the paint their analysts use to mark projectiles. Furthermore, photographs in the PGR's forensic report show experiments using a chisel on .38 caliber projectiles that clearly do not reproduce the damage observed in the actual ricochet projectile extracted from the body at the autopsy. These experiments contradict the PGR's claim that a chisel at the autopsy caused the damage in the ricochet projectile.

"In an effort to further legitimize their unsupported claims, the PGR contracted several Canadian consultants who reiterated the PGR's incorrect hypothesis in a report falsely passed off to the public and international community as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report issued in July 2009," states Schmitt.

PHR's International Forensic Program conducted its March 2008 review of the investigation at the request of both Amnesty International and the attorney for the Will family who, under Mexican law, is allowed full access to the case file and the opportunity to provide information to the prosecution. The IFP's forensic team and work are entirely funded through Physicians for Human Rights.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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