Our early drive into Tucson brought us to the Courthouse to witness the final day of pre-trail motions for the USA vs. Swartz case, the murder trial that will decide the sentence for Agent Swartz. On October 12, 2012, Swartz fired 10 shots into the back of sixteen-year-old Jose Rodriguez, who was on the Mexico side of the 20-foot-high border fence. Five years later, his family is hoping to get justice.
We sat in the back of the courtroom with the victim’s family. His mother and grandmother stared straight ahead, ignoring their son’s/grandson’s killer, who sat in the trail stand to their left. As the court discusses whether or not certain videos or witnesses could be used, Jose’s family sat rigid, taking in all of the facts through the black headsets that provided them simultaneous translation from English to Spanish.
The court discussed one of the more controversial aspects of the trial- the fact that the original footage of the killing was either lost or destroyed. A compressed copy had been made, but the defense attorneys had brought in a witness that claimed the video was “99% inaccurate.”
As with any politically charged case, anti-immigration rhetoric filled the room. There was talk of drug smugglers and cartels, “rocking” and “packers”, a jumble of pseudo-military border patrol slang that the court room seemed to take for granted. The defense struggled to reinforce that the case was not over immigration or cartel lands, but whether or not the agent was justified in using deadly force against a teenage boy.
“A 2013 investigation by The Arizona Republic found that since 2005, C.B.P. agents had killed at least 42 people, a majority of them in the United States, but most of the agents’ identities had been kept secret, and the officers faced ‘‘few, if any, public repercussions, even in cases in which the justification for the shooting seems dubious.’’ Thirteen of the cases involved American citizens; at least three involved unarmed teenagers who were shot in the back.”