TUCSON, AZ – A mistrial was declared Monday in the case of a US Border Patrol agent. UU After an Arizona jury acquitted him of a second-degree murder charge for the murder of a Mexican teenager, he was stuck on minor murder charges.
The decision of federal district judge Raner Collins means that prosecutors could seek another trial for agent Lonnie Swartz on the charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death in 2012 of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was shot dead by throwing stones to the authorities during an attempt to smuggle drugs. Prosecutors said they were evaluating the possibility of pursuing a new trial.
Jurors have deliberated about 18 hours for five days on what human rights lawyers say was the first prosecution of a Border Patrol agent in a deadly shootout across the border.
Swartz fired 16 shots at the last minute of October 10, 2012, through a 20-foot fence that sits on an embankment on Mexico's Calle Internacional, a Nogales street with homes and small businesses.
Prosecutors admitted during the month-long trial that Elena Rodriguez was throwing rocks across the border during an attempted drug smuggling. But they say he did not deserve to die.
Defense lawyers responded that Swartz was justified in using lethal force against rock throwers and fired from the US side of the border in self-defense.
Defense attorneys Sean Chapman and Jim Calle did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Monday afternoon.
Art Del Cueto, head of the Tucson union for Border Patrol officers, said: "I believe that justice was duly taken care of, the juries took their time, and we are very happy with that."
Prosecutor Elizabeth Strange said her office respects the jury's decision. "I am proud of the work of our office in presenting this difficult case to the jury," said Strange.
The Border Patrol was under strict control during the Obama administration for allegations of excessive use of force. Customs and Border Protection, its parent agency, reported 55 incidents in which employees used firearms from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012. The number of incidents fell to 17 during the same period five years later .
Swartz was initially charged with murder in the second degree for the murder of Elena Rodríguez in Nogales, Mexico.
Collins told the jury in his instructions that they could consider a minor charge of involuntary manslaughter or voluntary if they had trouble reaching a verdict on the most serious charge.
During the final arguments, Assistant US Attorney Wallace Heath Kleindienst said Swartz "was fed up with being shaken" after being targeted by at least six other attacks.
"I was angry at people who had been throwing stones at the fence," Kleindienst said.
"It was not about eliminating a threat, because there was no threat," he said. "It was about eliminating a human being."
Defense attorney Sean Chapman argued that "there was not a shred of evidence" that Swartz was angry or fed up.
He said that Swartz fired because he was trying to protect himself and his fellow officers during a drug operation.
"From his first day in the Border Patrol, it had taken root in him that the rocks were dangerous," Chapman said.
The trial was played when President Donald Trump called National Guard Forces to be sent to the border with Mexico to free Border Patrol agents and prevent them from entering the United States illegally.
Trump took action against illegal immigration and built a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States. cornerstone of his presidency.
The murder of Elena Rodríguez was deeply felt in the twin communities of Nogales, where about 20,000 people live on the Arizona side and about 300,000 in Mexico. The communities are united by members of the family, commerce and culture and have long been referred to locally as "Ambos Nogales" – "Ambos Nogales" in Spanish.
During the trial, the jurors visited the border area at night to get a better idea of what Swartz was facing.
The agent, who has been on administrative leave pending the outcome of the trial, testified that he remembered very little of what happened.
The Border Patrol has not said if it was receiving its salary.  A parallel civil case filed by the teenager's mother against Swartz seeking monetary damages is pending before the Ninth Court of Appeals of the United States in San Francisco.