MCWHIRTER: Yes. I had the idea to develop a bench book, and
I think I’m going to hire a U.S. attorney to come down and work
with judges to develop it. El Salvador does not have a system of
binding precedent, and all these questions arise under the code,
for instance, What is a pregunte impertinente—an impertinent
question? You are not allowed in a cross-examination to ask
those, but the trouble is none of the judges have a consensus
what that means. So what I have designed is a course where 20
to 30 judges will come together and they’ll be in a guided discussion of what that means. I’ll have a reporter, who is going to
be an American attorney, and he’ll record the majority views and
the significant minority views. And then we’ll print that out as a
bench book. So that when the question comes up in court what
flagrancia mean, a flagrant violation, you have a definition.
In the United States we struggle with questions like these too,
but at least we have a body of law from which to know that. So
that would be an example of a cultural issue on which they have
to adjust to a change without the infrastructure to do it.
AZAT: Are there are projects you’re developing?
MCWHIRTER: Well, for years I had this wonderful interactive
CD of the Venezuelan criminal procedure code. Ten years later,
I’m in El Salvador and I handed this to my staff and said, Look,
we need to do something like this. And the one that we’re pro-
ducing in El Salvador is better. You put the disk in your com-
puter and it comes up with a screen
that looks like a library shelf, and
you tap on the different titles of the
code, and it comes down and it’s an
interactive menu and it reads it out
loud, and you can tap on for more commentary. And it gives a
whole flow chart of how the code works. So that’s what’s what
AZAT: It sounds like even though there are defined goals, and you
have to collaborate with many groups, USAID expects you to be
MCWHIRTER: Yes. And that kind of plays on my strengths in this
whole thing, developing training programs and teaching.
AZAT: Is your staff American or Salvadoran?
MCWHIRTER: Most are Salvadoran. For this particular contract
they had to have a North American Chief of Party. The person in
charge of most of the police activity is a former FBI agent who’s
very good. The rest of the staff includes a Colombian working with
the prosecutors and Salvadorans administering the contract.
AZAT: Are all of the staff on board with this mission?
MCWHIRTER: Yes, the Salvadorans especially because they want to
administer this money to develop democracy in their own country.
These people know what they’re doing.
AZAT: Do you enjoy life there?
MCWHIRTER: Yes. I get a generous housing allowance, and there
are certain areas of town where most people [from the United
States] live. I get $2,000 a month to live.
AZAT: It sounds like a lot for there.
MCWHIRTER: It is. And I found a really nice apartment with huge
grounds, and a swimming pool and playground for the kids, and a
basketball court and all that, so that was my need for my kids.
AZAT: Do you ever feel unsafe?
MCWHIRTER: We live in a better neighborhood. I personally don’t
feel like I’m in any physical danger. Now, if you read my obituary,
you might say, Well, he was wrong about that, but to show how
things are and how bad the gang problem is, one of my driver’s
brothers-in-law was assassinated by a gang. This kid went over to
a girl’s house that he likes. The girl was somehow hooked up with
a gang or kind of was supposed to be a possession of a gang member. The gang came in, killed her, killed her parents, and killed this
kid all in one night. So that’s kind of how things are. I have staff
that are in physical danger.
I’m not in physical danger, I don’t believe, but I have staff that