U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne honored a Mexican filmmaker who has been nominated for the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award.

"The U.S. secretary of state recognizes women who have demonstrated exceptional courage, determination and leadership in promoting human rights, social justice and women's equality and progress," the ambassador said in acknowledging Layda Negrete on Wednesday for her contributions to improving Mexico's justice system.

Negrete and co-director Roberto Hernandez - both lawyers-turned-filmmakers - made the documentary "Presunto culpable" (Presumed Guilty), which premiered in 2010 and tells the dramatic story of Mexican Jose Antonio "Toño" Zuñiga, a young man sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

He was convicted on the basis of false evidence and testimony.

Zuñiga, who served two years in prison, was released after Negrete and Hernandez took up his case and filed an appeal, documenting acts of corruption in the criminal justice system.

"Presunto culpable" is the highest-grossing documentary in Mexico's history.

The U.S. Embassy said that with her films "Presunto culpable" and "El tunel" (The Tunnel), an earlier courtroom documentary, Negrete has "provoked public indignation and generated popular support for the important reform approved in 2008 that will made Mexico's justice system more transparent and efficient."

For her part, Negrete dedicated the award to the network of civil organizations advocating for oral trials, saying their "continued persistence will not be halted by continued resistance." 

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