Skip to comments.Juries often disagree with official findings in drug war deaths
Posted on 02/18/2003 1:21:33 PM PST by MrLeRoy
Given that Drug Enforcement Administration officials already have said 14-year-old Ashley Villarreal caused her own death, we shouldn't hold our breath for that agency's investigation into the tragedy. Can't police agencies learn to at least pretend they are conducting a thorough investigation before declaring their agents free of blame?
The problem is, when juries get to examine all the facts, they often disagree:
Take the case of David Aguilar of Three Points, Ariz., a small town outside Tucson.
Aguilar wasn't 14, but 44. He had moved with his family from Tucson to get his children away from drugs and gangs. One afternoon in 1997, two days after local authorities distributed fliers and held a neighborhood meeting warning that a drug offender had moved nearby, Aguilar saw a strange man parked outside his house.
Aguilar's family says he went out and asked the man what he was doing. When he got no answer he returned to his house and grabbed a gun. He told his son he just wanted to scare the guy.
The man in the car, James Laverty, denied Aguilar had previously approached him. He said he told Aguilar he was a police officer. In fact, he was a rookie DEA agent conducting routine surveillance of the road, not of Aguilar or his home.
Laverty, 27, said he thought he heard a gunshot as he tried to pull away, then fired 11 shots in self defense before speeding off.
Aguilar died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Both the DEA and local law enforcement authorities sided with Laverty. But when the family brought the facts to a jury through a wrongful death lawsuit, the jurors rejected the government's argument that Aguilar had been engaged in felony aggravated assault.
They found Laverty 70 percent responsible and awarded the family $1.9 million. The judge reduced it to $1.4 million. The federal government appealed and lost.
In 1992, the DEA joined Los Angeles County deputies and other members of a task force in raiding the ranch of a millionaire on a marijuana warrant. The 61-year-old millionaire, who apparently was inebriated at the time of the raid, grabbed his gun and reportedly pointed it at one of the deputies. The deputy killed him.
Los Angeles authorities defended the deputy, but unfortunately for them they had crossed the county line to conduct the raid. The Ventura County district attorney investigated and found that the search warrant was unjustified. No marijuana was found on the ranch, and a DEA agent's claim that he had seen some plants during an overflight was not credible.
The district attorney said he believed the deputies and agents were motivated by an eagerness to seize the $5 million ranch under drug forfeiture laws. They had obtained an appraisal of the land before conducting the raid.
The government later settled a lawsuit by the family. The federal government paid $1 million and Los Angeles County paid $4 million.
In 2000, the DEA and a Modesto, Calif., SWAT team killed an 11-year-old boy during a drug raid.
This time authorities didn't try to blame the victim.
Alberto Sepulveda was following orders to lie face down on the floor when an officer's gun went off by accident.
The family's lawsuit was settled for $2.55 million by the city and $450,000 by the federal government.
No drugs or weapons were found. The boy's father later pleaded guilty to using a telephone to sell marijuana. He received probation.
The DEA also defended an agent in Brooklyn who fatally shot an unarmed man in the back last year, claiming it was self-defense.
But in a rare turn of events, the Brooklyn district attorney presented an investigation to a state grand jury. That body indicted the agent for manslaughter.
The case was removed to federal court last month. If a judge finds the officer was following proper procedures, the case will be dismissed.
But the case still may go before a jury. The family has filed a suit.
That's a bald-faced LIE!
The federal government and LA County paid NOTHING. The TAXPAYERS (i.e. you, me , and the citizens of LA County) paid $5 million.
All the government agents (including police, sheriff, etc) involved in this horror should have been charged with murder and if convicted, executed.
Money is not a moral substitute for Justice!
Interesting. No posting guidelines broken, only one reply - but hidden in the back room while "death to druggies" threads are prominently displayed. Makes one wonder.....
Drug LEOs corrupt? Nahhh ....
Yes, explain that one if you would. And why is the "death to drug dealers" thread, full of flames, hate and violence, left on the main board?
A few gangland-style executions are a small price to pay to protect the alcohol industry from competition.
A big bump for killing Americans without trials. What a CONCEPT!
How long before some FReepers come to defend that concept?
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