US Supreme Court dismisses case of Mexican teenager’s murder by Border Patrol

The dismissal comes as a major blow to the decade-long battle fought by the parents of Sergio Hernández, who was killed in 2010 after being shot by a Border Patrol officer

February 26, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Sergio Hernandez
Photo description: Family members of Sergio Hernández break down before his grave in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)

The United States Supreme Court dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed by parents of Sergio Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old Mexican killed in a cross-border shooting by the US Border Patrol in 2010. In a split judgement (5-4), the Supreme Court upheld the judgement of a lower court dismissing the lawsuit against Border Patrol officer Jesus Mesa Jr., who was responsible for shooting the teenager from across the US-Mexico border. Sergio Hernández died in Mexican territory very close to the international border separating El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

The majority verdict was based on the reasoning that since the victim died on Mexican soil, the case fell beyond the purview of US courts despite the fact that the shooting took place from US territory. The court stated that it was for the US Congress to decide whether such a matter could be taken up. The minority verdict argued that since the incident took place very close to the border, within the border zone jointly maintained by the two nations, the matter fell within the ambit of the US courts.

The judgement was split on ideological lines as the US Supreme Court now has a conservative majority after the appointment of controversial judge Bret Kavanaugh by president Donald Trump in 2018. The majority verdict came primarily from the conservative faction, aligning with the stated views of Trump, who also believes that the case should be beyond the purview of the courts.

Mexico has long-maintained that Mesa Jr. must be indicted for the crime. As US officials refused to prosecute the border patrol officer, efforts were made to extradite him to stand trial in Mexico. The administration of the former president Barack Obama had rejected the extradition request, a policy that has continued under the incumbent Trump regime.