TUCSON (CN) – After two and one-half days of deliberation, a federal jury last week failed to return a verdict against a Border Patrol agent who killed a migrant in the Arizona desert last year. U.S. District Judge David Bury declared a mistrial and tentatively scheduled a new trial for April 22.
Agent Nicholas Corbett said he shot Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera in self-defense after Rivera brandished a rock while being rounded up just north of the Mexican border on Jan. 12, 2007.
Rivera, two brothers and the girlfriend of one brother had traveled from Central Mexico to cross the desert near Douglas, Ariz., when Corbett corralled the group in his truck.
The three immigrants testified that Rivera was surrendering when Corbett shot him from behind.
Corbett said that Rivera had approached him with a softball-size rock.
Expert witnesses testified that the bullet entered Rivera at a downward angle, from a distance of 1 foot or less.
In an often emotional trial, defense counsel, led by Sean Chapman, attempted to discredit the immigrants by claiming that they were unduly influenced by the Mexican Consulate.
Trial-watcher Katie O’Connor, who works for the Tucson-based rights group Border Action, said the defense was effective in putting forth “this idea of a rock,” which would justify deadly force.
Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general and the lead prosecutor, attempted to introduce evidence indicating that Corbett had a history of violence, which Judge David Bury denied because it was not disclosed before the hearing.
Jurors have not made any public statements – O’Connor said that after the decision, the men and women “went out the back door.”
Border Patrol statistics state that agents have killed 12 immigrants in the past two years.