Testimony begins in trial of Border Patrol agent who shot migrant
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) ” A U.S. Border Patrol agent acted without provocation early last year when he fatally shot one of four illegal immigrants he was taking into custody in southern Arizona, a special prosecutor told a federal jury Wednesday.
“The victim was surrendering, going down on his knees, was hit from behind … and shot through the heart while surrendering,” special prosecutor Grant Woods told jurors during opening statements in the murder trial for Agent Nicholas Corbett.
Woods told jurors that the rights to life and liberty outlined in the Declaration of Independence applied as much to the victim, 22-year-old Francisco Javier Dominguez of Puebla, Mexico, as to anyone else in the country.
Defense lawyer Sean Chapman countered by telling the jury that his client was justified when he fired the fatal shot because Dominguez was threatening to “crush his head with a rock.”
He said Dominguez was angry because he had been caught and that Corbett was only doing as he was trained.
He also contended that three other migrants who plan to testify, including the victims’ two brothers and the girlfriend of one, lied after being improperly influenced by the Mexican government.
Corbett is charged with second-degree murder, negligent homicide and manslaughter for the January 2007 shooting near Naco, Ariz. Jurors can convict on only one count.
The four migrants were making their way north from the Mexican border when Corbett sped up to them in a patrol vehicle and circled the group before jumping out to take them into custody.
Seconds later, Dominguez was dying, and Corbett was desperately trying to find the wound, a fellow agent testified Wednesday.
Agent Steve Berg said he heard Corbett calling out for help on the radio and saying that a shooting had taken place. He said he reached the scene less than two minutes later.
There was no sign that the other migrants were angry. Corbett, he testified, appeared shocked and he later overheard him describing how he had been threatened with a rock before the shooting.
Woods suggested that Corbett covered up by lying about the circumstances of the shooting and alleging to other agents that he had been threatened.
The case is unusual because it is being tried in federal court by state prosecutors using Arizona law.
Conviction for second-degree murder could bring a sentence of 10 to 22 years, manslaughter seven to 21 years, negligent homicide four to eight years. A conviction also would bring mandatory prison time because the state has alleged the dangerous nature of the offense since a gun was used.
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