Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ramos, Compean appeal their convictions to federal court

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, former U.S. Border Patrol agents sentenced to lengthy prison terms for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect, have asked a federal appeals court to overturn their convictions, saying they were charged with a nonexistent crime and convicted after the jury was given improper instructions by the trial judge.

Their lawyer said in a 20-page motion that the 'improperly-crafted indictment' misfocused the agents, counsel and jury on a nonexistent crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm, because the agents were authorized to possess, carry and use a firearm in the normal course of their job. He said the prosecution 'misstated' the crime defined by federal statute.

He also said the district court 'erroneously told the jury the federal statute made it a crime for anyone to discharge a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.' A ruling in the case is expected next month.

Paul Kamenar, senior executive counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation, a watchdog group among eight organizations and persons who have filed briefs in support of the agents, called it “an outrageous case of prosecutorial abuse.”

The will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and seeks to overturn the 11- and 12-year prison terms Ramos and Compean received.

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