TUCSON, Arizona – The Supreme Court transferred a Arizona cross-border shooting case to a California court of appeal for review on Monday as a result of the High Court’s decision to dismiss charges in a similar case in El Paso, Texas .
The Supreme Court allowed the motion in the trial filed by Araceli Rodriguez, the mother of the murdered teenager José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, against the border patrol agent Lonnie Swartz.
In doing so, the court decision overturned the previous decision in the case and referred it to the United States’ 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The Court of Appeal will now review the trial, based on the new legal precedent established by the Supreme Court.
In a 5-4 decision, the High Court on February 25 dismissed legal action against Texas border agent Jesus Mesa Jr. for shooting and killing 15-year-old Sergio Hernández Güereca across the US border fence. Mexican from El Paso.
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The Conservative majority ruled that constitutional protection did not extend to the adolescent because he was in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, at the time of the shooting, even though Mesa shot him on the American side.
Elena Rodriguez, 16, was killed while filming in 2012 in Ambos Nogales.
Luis Parra, lawyer for Elena Rodriguez’s family, said Monday’s decision to transfer the case to Arizona was expected after last week’s decision. He will meet with the family later this week, as well as other members of the legal team, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We are still analyzing the decision thoroughly to determine if … it is closing the case,” he said. “But yes, it has a huge impact on us, and it closes a path to finding a remedy on behalf of the Elena Rodriguez family.”
Family lawyers for Hernández Güereca argued before the court that a 1971 Supreme Court decision allowed them to prosecute Mesa for unreasonable use of force under the Fourth Amendment and for violating the rights of young persons to a due process under the fifth amendment.
The Rodriguez trial made similar arguments in the filming of Nogales. But because the Supreme Court rejected these arguments, Parra said they could no longer rely on them when the 9th circuit reconsidered the case.
Two separate juries in Tucson acquitted border officer of murder and manslaughter charges in two separate trials in 2018, six years after October 10, 2012, with lethal bullets.
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The ACLU filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Araceli Rodriguez in 2014. Between the two criminal trials, a panel of judges from the 9th circuit of San Francisco ruled that Swartz did not have immunity from prosecution and authorized the family lawsuit.
The decision, which the Supreme Court overturned on Monday, was in contradiction with a decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which twice dismissed the Hernandez Güereca case.
In deciding that Hernández Güereca’s family could not claim damages from Mesa for the 2010 shooting in El Paso, the majority of the Supreme Court found that the family’s request had “foreign relations and implications for national security. “
The court also noted that Congress has not authorized any legislative route to claim the cross-border conduct of federal agents.
This could be a potential route for the family to move forward, said Parra.
“The family intends to continue to seek justice, by all means possible,” he said. “And if that includes … looking for a legislative way to pursue civil liability in this cross-border extraterritorial contact, then they will.”
Follow Rafael Carranza on Twitter: @RafaelCarranza.