Murder in the Desert – The Circus returns to town

U.S. Border Patrol agent Nicholas Corbett, will stand trial again on various charges stemming from a shooting of an illegal immigrant. More than seven months after the first trial ended with a hung jury, the retrial of a U.S. Border Patrol agent facing murder charges begins today at the U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Here’s the playbook

The case: U.S. Border Patrol agent Nicholas Corbett is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide in the Jan. 12, 2007, shooting of Francisco Javier Domínguez Rivera, a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Puebla, Mexico.

Prosecutions position: The shooting was not justified. In the first trial in March, Domínguez Rivera’s two brothers and a girlfriend testified that the shooting took place as Domínguez Rivera was kneeling to surrender. Prosecutors relied on ballistics and forensic evidence as well as a surveillance video of the incident to support that testimony.

Defenses position: Corbett fired in self-defense. In the first trial, Corbett testified that Domínguez Rivera walked up to him with a rock and tried to “smash” his skull. The two engaged in a hand-to-hand fight, and as Domínguez Rivera reached up with the rock, Corbett’s gun fired, Corbett told the jury. Defense attorneys brought in their own experts to offer alternative takes on the medical and ballistics evidence.

Recap of the first trial: On March 7, following a weeklong trial and three days of jury deliberations, U.S. District Judge David C. Bury declared a mistrial when the jury was deadlocked. Federal prosecutors vowed to retry the case and defense attorneys said Corbett was prepared to go to trial again to be exonerated of all charges.

This time around:: The prosecution plans to make a more concerted effort to show the jury who Domínguez Rivera was. That will include bringing a former employer from Connecticut and family members to the stand.

During a pretrial conference Monday, Judge Bury warned prosecutor Grant Woods to avoid being dramatic or trying to invoke sympathy as he did during the first trial. Bury cited Woods’ demonstration of a photo of a young Domínguez Rivera to the jury as one of the inappropriate acts. Sounds like the fix is in doesn’t it?

Lead defense attorney’s have declined to discuss any new strategies from his side. The defense repeated its request Monday to have the trial moved to Phoenix due to extensive media coverage on both the Corbett case and immigration issues in general. Bury had previously denied the same request.

He needs to deny the change of venue once again.

And so it begins!