Monday, September 24, 2007
BP agent's homicide trial set for February in Tucson, No one is above the Law.
A trial for a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged with second degree murder will take place in U.S. federal court in Tucson in February.
U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury approved a motion filed by attorneys for Nicholas Corbett — Sean Chapman and Daniel Santander - to move the trial to federal court in Tucson from Cochise County Superior Court. The Judge reserved two weeks for the trial set to begin February 26.
Corbett's attorneys argued that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal court jurisdiction over a federal officer who is performing his duties. Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer did not oppose the motion.
On Jan. 12, Corbett, 39, shot and killed Francisco Javier Domínguez Rivera, 22, of Puebla, Mexico, about 150 yards north of the border, between Bisbee and Douglas.
The shooting happened while Corbett was trying to detain Domínguez Rivera, his two brothers and one of their girlfriend who had entered the country illegally.
On April 23, he was charged with four counts of homicide in connection with the shooting.
At a preliminary hearing on Aug. 6, Bisbee Justice of the Peace David Morales dismissed first-degree-murder charges, but ordered Corbett to stand trial on counts of second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide.
During an arraignment on Aug. 20 in Bisbee, Corbett pleaded not guilty in Cochise County Superior Court.
The motion filed by Chapman and Santander states, "The petitioner, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, shot and killed an illegal entrant that assaulted him with a rock as the petitioner attempted to apprehend the illegal entrant."
It adds, "The petitioner was acting in self-defense."
Corbett hasn't spoken publicly since the incident but told supervisory Border Patrol agents that night that Domínguez Rivera threatened him with a rock and that he shot in self-defense.
Those who were with Domínguez Rivera at the time of the shooting testified in the preliminary hearing that Corbett fired without provocation.
Corbett, a native of Pennsylvania who joined the Border Patrol in June 2003, has been on administrative desk duty since being charged on April 23. He had returned to full duty on Jan. 15 and stayed there until the charges were filed.
The case is being closely watched by the Border Patrol agents' union and by the Mexican Consulate and immigrants' rights organizations.