Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



President Bush Commutes Sentences of 2 Border Patrol Officers

On his last full day in office, on January 19, 2009, President Bush commuted the controversial sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, the two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in 2005. They had been sentenced to 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively. Their sentences will now expire on March 20 of this year.

I acknowledge that Ramos and Compean were doing their Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) jobs at the time they shot Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.  I acknowledge that the "victim" admitted smuggling several hundred pounds of marijuana on the day he was shot and pleaded guilty last year to drug charges related to two other smuggling attempts.  I acknoweldge that many politicians have asked that Ramos and Compean receive a Presidential pardon.

While I believe that the sentences were harsh, I also wonder --- What if it was me?  I am a Canadian lawyer.  Border officers have so much power and what if I had been shot for no reason.  The sentences sent a strong message that CBP officers cannot shoot people, even drug smugglers.  That message protects innocent people like me and does not allow CBP officers to fabricate links between drugs and non-Americans and act on a "belief" that a person is armed.

I believe that Presidnet Bush, by waiting until January 19, 2009 to commute the sentences, has made a good decision.  He sends the message that these two CBP officers should be punished for their crimes and others will be punished in the future if they assualt a person with a deadliy weapon and cover up the assualt.  However, he also sends the message that justice should be fair when the extra-ordinary circumstances require leniency.

 

 

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