U.S. DOESN'T WANT BORDER VIOLENCE MENTIONED IN TRIAL
Recent incidents of border violence echoed all the way to Washington, D.C., and Mexico City. Now the issue has seeped into at least one court case.
The prosecution in the case of two Border Patrol agents who allegedly shot an undocumented immigrant in the buttocks a year ago is seeking to exclude from the jury trial any mention of border violence, in particular the recent standoff in Hudspeth County.
The motion, filed by the U.S. Attorney's office last week, asks the judge to instruct the defense not to mention during arguments or witness questioning "the alleged dangerous nature of the border."
Court documents show the government is anticipating that the defense will use the current warnings over increased drug activity at the border to excuse the actions of agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos. The agents shot Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, a drug smuggler, near Fabens as he ran back to Mexico.
Stephen Peters, Ramos' attorney, said he wouldn't discuss his defense strategy in details, but said that "A key factor is what he (Ramos) reasonably believed at the time of the shooting. The circumstances on the border as well as the activity the alien was involved in are relevant."
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone is expected to rule on the motion today and the trial is scheduled to begin Friday.
A recent standoff in Hudspeth County between law enforcement officers and drug dealers protected by armed uniformed men who looked like Mexican soldiers sparked an international border security debate.
The government argues that the incident is irrelevant to the Ramos-Compean case, and misleading.
"It appears that there is an erroneous belief that individuals transporting illegal drugs across the border routinely carry guns.
The actual facts refute this belief. Investigators for the government accumulated statistics that show that in the Fabens Border Patrol area, in one year period, not one arrested drug trafficker possessed a firearm," the motion read.
A Border Patrol spokesman did not know about that study.
Aldrete, who suffered a ruptured urethra from the shooting, said he did not have a weapon.
Compean told investigators that he shot at the victim because he thought he saw something shiny in Aldrete's hand and feared it was a gun, according to testimony at a previous hearing in the case. Ramos refused to speak with the investigators.
The U.S. Attorney's office filed another motion seeking to suppress any mention of Aldrete being an undocumented immigrant and being involved in drug trafficking.
Aldrete was a commercial driver in Mexico whose commercial license had expired and who moved drugs to earn enough money to "feed his family and afford the pricey license," the second motion read.
The government argues that agents did not know Aldrete's immigration status or that he transported drugs until after the shooting when they searched the van Aldrete had crashed while fleeing.
The van carried more than 700 pounds of' marijuana.
The agents reported the drug seizure but not the shooting to their superiors.
Agents started following Aldrete's van because it was going faster than the farm vehicles that usually roam the area, court documents showed.
The government warned that if the defense is allowed to bring up the violent tendencies of drug dealers at the border, prosecutors are ready to counter with stories of "rogue law enforcement officers,"
court documents showed.