Two 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.
Houston defense lawyer J. Mark Brewer said two counts of a grand jury indictment against former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean charged them under a federal statute with the discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, but the statute does not define a crime and contains only a sentencing factor to be addressed after conviction.
Mr. Brewer 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 that in order to charge a crime under the government's 10-year mandatory sentence statute, an indictment "must allege that a defendant either has used or carried a firearm ... during and in relation to any crime of violence or has possessed a firearm in furtherance of such a crime." He said the prosecution "misstated" the crime defined by federal statute.
Mr. Brewer 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.
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It is a shame these two men are having to go through all this. Men like this should be rewarded for trying to keep our country safe. Instead they are serving outrageous sentences for doing their jobs. I think they should have already been pardoned.