- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Regarding your editorial of May 15, 2008, “Pardon Ramos and Compean,” I am disappointed that more than a year after the trial transcripts were posted on my office’s website, responsible publications such as yours continue to rely on myth, misconception and misunderstanding to characterize former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos as victims of a misguided prosecution.

An El Paso jury convicted Compean and Ramos after hearing their testimony and the testimony of other Border Patrol agents, as well as Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. One agent, an eyewitness to the encounter, testified he saw Aldrete-Davila raise his empty hands to surrender to agent Compean. He did not see a firearm and said he did not draw his own weapon because Aldrete-Davila did not pose a threat or danger to Compean or others. Compean also testified that he did not see a firearm in Aldrete-Davila’s raised hands. Aldrete-Davila’s testimony that he was unarmed confirmed what Compean and this other agent said.

In their testimony at trial, Compean and Ramos simply could not give plausible accounts of what happened just before, during or after the shooting. Their justification smacked of fabrication. And their feeble excuses for Compean collecting and discarding their empty shell casings and for jointly failing to report the shooting only underscored their mendacity. While Aldrete-Davila was a drug smuggler, which the jury knew, they found his account of events more believable than the agents’. Every day in thousands of courtrooms in America, courts charge juries with resolving credibility. This jury discharged its duty and found the agents’ telling not worthy of belief. There is no rule of law in this country that a policeman’s testimony must “prevail over” that of an accused criminal. If that were the rule, there would be no need for juries or trials.

Aldrete-Davila has been held accountable for smuggling drugs after he was shot. He pled guilty to drug charges filed by my office, and he awaits sentencing. His crimes were adjudicated in a court of law, just as were the crimes of Compean and Ramos. Courts, not law-enforcement officers, mete out punishment. Police cannot shoot just because a suspect is fleeing. These are not novel propositions. Adhering to these principles does not undermine our safety.

Compean and Ramos have appealed their convictions. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will determine whether their claims of trial error have merit. This office looks forward to the court’s ruling. But their trial, like their conduct, will be judged according to the rule of law. This case is a “mess,” as you characterize it, only because purportedly responsible voices continue to ignore the record facts to excuse Compean and Ramos from this rule.


U.S. Attorney

San Antonio, Tex.

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