Tag Archives: citizen

Supreme Court weighs case of Mexican boy slain by border agent

Sixty feet and the U.S-Mexico border separated the unarmed, 15-year-old Mexican boy and the U.S. Border Patrol agent who killed him with a gunshot to the head early on a June evening in 2010.

U.S. officials chose not to prosecute Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. and the Obama administration refused a request to extradite him so that he could face criminal charges in Mexico. When the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca tried to sue Mesa in an American court for violating their son’s rights, federal judges dismissed their claims.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was hearing the parents’ appeal, which their lawyers say is their last hope for some measure of justice.

The legal issues are different, but the Supreme Court case resembles the court battle over President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim nations in at least one sense. Courts examining both issues are weighing whether foreigners can have their day in U.S. courts.

Privacy experts also are watching the case because it could affect how courts treat global internet surveillance, particularly when foreigners are involved. It’s there that the “Fourth Amendment question in Hernandez seems to matter most,” George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Precisely what happened in the cement culvert that separates El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is in dispute, although the competing accounts are legally irrelevant to the court’s decision.

Sergio’s family says he was messing around with his friends that day, playing a game in which they ran down the culvert from the Mexican side and up the American side to touch an 18-foot fence. Mesa arrived on a bicycle and detained one person while the others scampered back across the culvert, actually the dry bed of the Rio Grande River. He then shot Sergio as the boy ran toward a pillar supporting an overhead rail bridge. Mesa and other agents who arrived on the scene rode away on their bikes, without checking on the boy or offering medical aid, the family says.

The Justice Department said Mesa was trying to stop “smugglers attempting an illegal border crossing” and fired his gun after he came under a barrage of rocks. Mesa argues in his court filings that Sergio was among the rock throwers.

But Robert Hilliard, the family’s lawyer, said U.S. officials met privately with the parents to explain the decision not to prosecute Mesa and told them that their son had not thrown rocks. A cellphone video appears to show that Sergio was running and trying to hide before he was shot.

Had Sergio been shot a few feet to the north, he would have been on American soil and U.S. courts would be open to his family, Hilliard said. There’s no dispute that Mesa was on the U.S. side of the border, he said.

If the family is kept out of court, Hilliard said, the Supreme Court will be saying “that 100 percent of the conduct of a domestic police officer in the United States is unconstrained by the U.S. Constitution.” The family is seeking at least $10 million, Hilliard has said.

The Trump administration, like its predecessor, is arguing that the location of Hernandez’s death, in Mexico, should be the end of the story.

The right to sue “should not be extended to aliens injured abroad,” the government said in its court filing. In addition, the government said the parents’ claims under the Fourth Amendment should be dismissed because its protections against unreasonable search and seizure don’t apply to non-citizens outside the U.S. The government also said Mesa should be shielded from liability for the shooting, even if the family could prove he violated other rights Sergio might be able to assert.

Judge Edward Prado of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially voted to allow the case to proceed because “if ever a case could be said to present an official abuse of power so arbitrary as to shock the conscience,” Sergio’s shooting appeared to be it. The full 5th Circuit later sided with Mesa.

Sergio’s shooting was not an isolated border episode. Parents of a teenager killed in Nogales, Mexico, from gunshots fired across the border by a U.S. agent have filed a civil rights lawsuit that is being delayed until the Supreme Court rules.

The government’s response to that shooting was notable because prosecutors are pursuing second-degree murder charges against Agent Lonnie Swartz.

In that episode, 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was hit about 10 times by shots fired across the border from Arizona. The Border Patrol has said Swartz was defending himself against rock-throwers.

The boy’s family says he was not involved and was walking home after playing basketball with friends. Swartz is on leave and his trial is set for June.

A 2013 report commissioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and written by an outside group faulted the agency for insufficiently investigating the 67 shootings that took place from 2010 to 2012 and questioned the use of force in some of those cases. The agency has said it has tightened its policies, particularly in response to rock-throwers.

Dee Rees’ American odyssey ‘Mudbound’ captivates Sundance

Director Dee Rees wanted to get to the big questions in her enthralling period epic Mudbound. Specifically: What is it to be a citizen and what is it to fight for a country that doesn’t fight for you?

The film, which premiered Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, had audiences raving and some already speculating about Oscar chances.

Based on Hillary Jordan’s 2008 novel Mudbound, chronicles the lives of two families in the WWII-era South — one white and one black, and the complicated intersectionality of their paths. There’s the McAllans, Laura (Carey Mulligan), her husband Henry (Jason Clarke), his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and their father Pappy (Jonathan Banks), and the Jacksons, Florence (Mary J. Blige), her husband Hap (Rob Morgan) and their son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell).

They’re tied together by a rental agreement — the Jackson’s rent their land and home from the McAllans — and the deeply complicated racial relationships in the segregated South in which Henry can demand help from Hap at any moment and Pappy can insist that Ronsel exit the local store from the back entrance.

It’s a sprawling and deeply American story about women, men, race and personhood that defies a simple summary.

“It’s not didactic, it’s not preachy,” Rees said. “The thing I love about it is it’s multiple points of view.”

Both Jamie and Ronsel go off to fight in WWII, where Jamie’s once shiny life becomes clouded by the horrors of war and alcohol. Ronsel finds freedom and acceptance that he’d never had in the U.S. embodied in his appointment to Sergeant status and a relationship with a German girl. But back at home, nothing has changed.

“I wanted to juxtapose the battle at home versus the battle abroad with the battle at home sometimes being even bloodier than the battle abroad — to show these two families fighting on the front lines,” Rees said, whose grandfathers both fought in wars, one in WWII and one in Korea.

“Both went away and came back and both didn’t quite get what they should have gotten,” she said.

Rees, who directed Pariah and the HBO movie Bessie, found in the story a deep resonance with her grandmother too. She integrated images and truths from her grandmother’s life in the Louisiana into the story, like how she wanted to be a stenographer and not a sharecropper (one of the Jackson children declares this her dream) and how she remembered as a child being pulled on the back of a cotton sack.

Blige, who is earning raves for her subtle and deeply powerful performance as the Jackson family matriarch, also had a grandmother who grew up in the South in Savannah, Georgia. She channeled her to embody Florence.

“She was so strong and silent. She never really said a lot, but when she said something it meant something … She planted her own food, she killed her own chickens, she killed her own cows. (She) and my grandfather were Hap and Florence,” Blige said. “Southern people are really all about love, and that’s what I took. I’m born and raised in the Bronx in New York, and as a child I went down South every summer so I saw my grandmother give love. I was raised with ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am.’ “

Though it’s been less than a day, so far the response has been rapturous. The audience at the premiere gave Rees and the cast a long standing ovation, and subsequent screenings have elicited similar praise. Mudbound does not yet have distribution, but it is expected to be one of the Festival’s hottest properties, and, one that people will be talking about long after Sundance comes to a close.

Maine governor uses clout to adopt dog wanted by a private citizen

A woman is angry with a shelter for breaking its own rules to give Maine Governor Paul LePage a stray dog the day before the dog was put up for adoption.

Donna Kincer, development director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, acknowledged the Jack Russell terrier mix was supposed to be made available a day later and on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The governor walks in your front door and it sort of shifts things a little,” Kincer told the Sun Journal, acknowledging elected officials get special privileges over ordinary citizens at her shelter.

Kincer said she hoped for good publicity from the governor’s adoption of the rescue dog from Louisiana.

LePage is a right-wing extremist who was dubbed “America’s craziest governor” by Politico. His positions on a wide range of issues have put him at odds with the Legislature in a state known for centrism. As a result, LePage is Maine’s veto champion.

With that in mind, the governor, who refused to attend a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast and then told the NAACP on camera to “kiss my butt,” named his purloined dog Veto.

But what was a happy moment for the governor, who thinks windmills are run by electric motors, proved heartbreaking for Heath Arsenault. She burst into tears upon learning the governor adopted the dog she wanted.

Arsenault said she’d been going through an emotionally difficult time and hoped the adoption would boost her spirits. She’d already talked to shelter staff about the adoption and she’d taken the day off from work to be first in line when the dog now known as Veto became available for adoption.

“I felt like they lied to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, the governor’s family had been looking for a new dog after the death of LePage’s Jack Russell named Baxter.

The governor’s family alerted him to the dog after spotting him on the shelter website. The governor visited the shelter the day before Arsenault had hoped to adopt him.

“He just stopped in to see the dog,” said LePage spokesman Peter Steele. “He was very pleasantly surprised when (the shelter) allowed him to take the dog home.”

Arsenault says the shelter was wrong to give the governor the dog he wanted while other people must wait in line.

“No one should be given special privileges, even if they are the governor,” she said.