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death penalty news----MONT., NEV., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-08-17 16:25:29 UTC
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Aug. 17




MONTANA:

Libby man convicted of deliberate homicide



Trevor Mercier, the Libby man charged October 2016 in the death of Sheena
Devine, was convicted Thursday, Aug. 10 of deliberate homicide and tampering
with evidence. The jury took little over an hour to return the verdict.

Mercier could face the death penalty at his sentencing, scheduled for 10:30
a.m. Oct. 10, though prosecutors have not indicated they will seek it.

Devine's body was found in her home by her 2 young daughters on Oct. 6, 2016.
Investigators arrested Mercier in his home the following day after identifying
him as a prime suspect in her death, which they determined had occurred Oct. 5.
Mercier and Devine had been in a relationship that had ended before the
incident.

The conviction followed seven days of testimony that Alicia Backus, an attorney
for the defense, in her closing remarks acknowledged had been "an emotional
roller coaster."

Mercier's defense acknowledged at trial that he had caused Devine's death but
that it was a case of negligent, not deliberate, homicide, because he did not
intend to kill her. In her closing statements Backus told the jury that the
prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mercier was
guilty of deliberate homicide.

The night of Devine's death, she and Mercier had fought after Mercier threw a
rock at her car, smashing its windshield. The defense said while fighting
Mercier put Devine into a "sleeper hold," rendering her unconscious. Afterward,
the defense said, Mercier took her inside her house, placed her on the floor,
checked to make sure she was still breathing and then left the house.

In her closing statements Backus said Mercier's actions that night "created the
perfect storm" but were not deliberate.

The prosecution on Aug. 11 called an expert witness, Dr. Jaime Oeberst, to the
stand to support its assertion that Mercier did in fact deliberately cause
Devine's death. Now a deputy coroner in Kansas, Oeberst performed the autopsy
on Devine on Oct. 8, 2016. Referring to autopsy photos projected onto a screen,
Oeberst testified to the nature of Devine's injuries and also to how
strangulation occurs.

To underscore the difference between the 10 to 15 seconds a "sleeper hold"
takes to render someone unconscious and the 3 to 5 minutes that can cause
death, Deputy County Attorney Marcia Boris instructed Oeberst to use her watch
to time the passage of 5 minutes - during which the court was silent but for
the occasional paper shuffling or person fidgeting.

Deputy County Attorney Jeff Zwang referred to that dramatic demonstration in
his closing remarks, stating that Mercier had "strangled (Devine) long after
she was unconscious" and that he had beaten her so badly that she had
hemorrhages all around her head and sternum.

In wrapping up the prosecution's closing statement, Boris reminded the jury to
consider Mercier's previous conviction for a February 2016 domestic assault
against Devine - an assault that moments before Backus had minimized in her
closing statement because a counselor had said post-conviction that a
no-contact order put in place should be lifted.

In addition, Mercier's attorneys were critical of aspects of the investigation,
including law enforcement's handling of the crime scene.

Lincoln County District Court Judge Matt Cuffe scheduled Mercier's sentencing
for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10, 2017, after a pre-sentence investigation has been
completed.

(source: Daily Inter Lake)








NEVADA:

Lawyers accuse state of intending to get lethal injection drugs illegally,
raise specter of cruel execution



Lawyers for a Nevada prisoner who's volunteered to be executed are challenging
the state in court for not disclosing more details about how they plan to put
him to death, saying the lack of vetting could mean the state's 1st execution
in more than a decade is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

In a motion filed late Tuesday, federal public defenders who are representing
Scott Raymond Dozier fault the Nevada Department of Corrections for failing to
answer "basic questions about what drugs it intends to use in the execution and
what execution protocol is in place to effectuate the death sentence." That
violates the department's own policy of responding to public records requests
within five days, according to the filing.

They're asking for a court to allow expedited discovery on the matter and issue
a ruling on whether the execution will proceed lawfully. A hearing is scheduled
for Thursday morning in Las Vegas, during which they expect the judge might
push back the execution date into mid-November.

With Nevada's execution drugs expired, and numerous pharmaceutical companies
refusing to furnish replacements, Dozier's lawyers question whether the state
can actually obtain the drugs through its standard purchasing process and say
the state hasn't revealed an up-to-date execution protocol. State prisons
director James Dzurenda has previously expressed confidence that the state can
carry out the execution and earlier this spring suggested Nevada could obtain
the drugs from another state, but has not offered further details since then.

"The State's conduct in this case demonstrates that it intends to obtain lethal
injection drugs outside of the lawful channels under state and federal law for
doing so," the motion argues. "If the State has to violate applicable state and
federal laws to obtain lethal injection drugs then there is a substantial and
unjustified risk that Mr. Dozier will suffer a prolonged and torturous
execution. If the State obtains the drugs outside of the legal framework for
doing so, there is a substantial risk of adulteration or misbranding of the
drugs."

A corrections spokeswoman reached by The Nevada Independent on Tuesday didn't
have details about the drugs, and she didn't immediately respond to a request
for comment on Wednesday. Neither did a spokeswoman for Attorney General Adam
Laxalt.

Dozier's lawyers ask whether the state, unable to obtain an anesthetic drug to
administer ahead of the execution, will use a 2-drug cocktail that would botch
the process.

"If NDOC's 2-drug cocktail does not work, this Court faces the prospect of
being contacted the evening of the execution to find out that Mr. Dozier cannot
be anesthetized, and that he is alive and suffocating on a gurney with IV lines
inserted into his body via invasive surgical cut downs, with an obsolete
execution protocol instructing the Director's execution team that they cannot
stop," the motion argues. "This gruesome spectacle is fundamentally unfair to
Mr. Dozier, the Director, and his execution team."

Dozier's execution is scheduled for the week of Oct. 16 at the state's new
execution chamber at Ely State Prison. Dozier, 46, has voluntarily given up
opportunities to appeal his decade-old death sentence and has repeatedly
requested to die.

He was convicted in 2007 of robbing and killing a 22-year-old man at a Las
Vegas hotel before dismembering the body. He was also convicted of another
homicide in Arizona.

Although the state has about 80 people on death row, most die in prison, and a
volunteer is rare. Nevada hasn't had an execution since 2006, and has only
carried out 12 executions since 1977.

The state is required by law to use a lethal injection, but a drug needed to
create the lethal injection cocktail has expired. Nevada found none of the 247
vendors it contacted last year were willing to replace it.

Nationwide, difficulties with the drug supply have prompted states to take
drastic, controversial measures with the death penalty. Officials in Arkansas
scheduled 8 executions in 11 days this spring in a race against the expiration
dates of their lethal injection drugs, although only 4 were carried out.

(source: The Nevada Independent)








CALIFORNIA:

Judge will determine whether Seal Beach mass murderer will face death penalty



In a Santa Ana courtroom Friday morning, Scott Evans Dekraai will learn whether
he could face execution for the worst mass killing in Orange County history.

After 6 years of delay and a series of controversies that rocked the county's
criminal justice system, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals has 2 options. He
can open the way for a jury to decide 47-year-old Dekraai's fate.

Or Goethals could become one of the rare judges to take execution off the table
for a convicted murderer because of law enforcement misconduct. In that case,
Goethals would likely sentence Dekraai to 8 consecutive life terms without
parole.

"It's a notable case because it's a serious crime and there is unparalleled
prosecutorial misconduct," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death
Penalty Information Center, a non- profit organization that tracks capital
cases nationwide.

Goethals' decision will hinge on his judgment of the Orange County Sheriff's
Department and whether it can be trusted to hand over evidence that could
benefit Dekraai's defense. Goethals' decision also will be based on whether he
believes the department withheld and destroyed documents showing jailhouse
informants were used improperly. Goethals had issued a 2013 court order to turn
over the documents.

Dekraai's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, recently argued
before Goethals that "the sheriff's department has attempted to create a false
and misleading narrative about this case...They are content to let this
defendant be misled."

But state Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy, the current prosecutor,
reminded Goethals that his job isn't to punish law enforcement for any
misdeeds.

"(This is) not a forum for the defense to investigate the sheriff's
department...nor is it a government oversight hearing," Murphy said. "It's
about the prosecution of (Dekraai) for murders he's admitted."

For more than 4 years, the October 2011 shooting rampage that killed 8 people
at a Seal Beach beauty salon has taken a back seat to the legal jousting over
the use of jailhouse informants to improperly secure confessions from targeted
inmates.

Ironically, Dekraai's guilt was never really in doubt. Within minutes of the
shooting, he confessed to Seal Beach police, and then pleaded guilty in 2014.
Dekraai appeared to be on the fast track to join the 748 prisoners on
California's death row, and about 2,900 nationwide.

But his case got derailed when Orange County prosecutors and sheriff's deputies
made what they contended was an honest mistake days after the shooting. They
bugged Dekraai's jail cell and sent a prolific informant to get him talking.
That was a violation of Dekraai's constitutional rights, because he had a
lawyer and had been formally charged, Sanders said.

Prosecutors maintained it wasn't a violation because they instructed the
informant to listen and not to ask any questions about the case. The gambit
came back to haunt them.

Sanders had the reputation in the district attorney's office as a courtroom
Chicken Little, constantly accusing prosecutors of misconduct. But the
accusations not only stuck this time, but generated more evidence.

Sanders learned of the informant and realized the same inmate had been used
with another of his clients, Daniel Wozniak, who killed 2 people to fund his
wedding. Sanders figured it was not a coincidence, but a sign that police and
prosecutors had forged a surreptitious network of jailhouse informants, and he
set out to press his concerns with Goethals.

From that point on, Dekraai's punishment was delayed as the so-called "snitch
scandal" unfolded. With legal scholars and the media watching nationwide,
Sanders uncovered evidence that prosecutors and deputies had cheated for up to
30 years, misusing jail informants and not telling the defense.

For instance, Sanders recently obtained a Dec. 27, 2009 sheriff's department
email detailing how the jail's color-coded security wristbands were changed for
informants, to make them more credible to targeted inmates. 8 deputies
participated in the scheme against an inmate accused of attempted murder - a
scheme requested by a Santa Ana Police investigator, according to the email.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has fought back, saying any misconduct was
unintentional and that the controversy was overblown. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens
has said there was no sanctioned informant network operating in her 5 jails,
putting the blame on some rogue deputies.

And the 2016-17 Orange County Grand Jury called the scandal a "myth," spread by
an uninformed media.

But the state's 4th District Court of Appeal, in November 2016, found cheating
by Orange County prosecutors and sheriff's employees was real and systemic.
Appellate justices upheld a 2015 decision by Goethals to take the case away
from the district attorney's office because he did not trust local prosecutors
to ensure Dekraai a fair penalty trial.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating both the district attorney's
office and the sheriff's department's handling of informants. Meanwhile, at
least 6 murder and attempted murder cases have unraveled in Orange County
because of informant issues raised by Sanders.

1 of those cases involved Isaac John Palacios, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to
killing a rival gang member. He was released from jail within hours of that
plea, serving only 3 1/2 years on what could have been a life sentence.

The reason for the plea deal: prosecutors said they did not want to open the
case up to the same scrutiny as Dekraai because of informant concerns.

Since 2013, 60 witnesses have testified in 3 special hearings before Goethals,
with the case growing worse for local law enforcement.

During the current proceedings, a half dozen deputies refused to testify,
invoking their 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination. 3 of the
deputies are being investigated by the state Attorney General's Office for
suspected perjury during prior hearings.

Goethals has voiced anger and frustration over what he calls the sheriff's
department's apparent inability or unwillingness to produce documents ordered
by the court.

The drip, drip of the release of documents has kept the focus on the role of
the sheriff's department and away from Dekraai's crime and the suffering of the
victims' families.

After assuring the judge that no documents existed, the sheriff's department in
late 2014 turned over TRED records, which document the movement of inmates
inside the jail. Deputies admitted trying to keep those records confidential
during a previous hearing .

Then Sanders learned of computerized "special handling logs," notes kept by
deputies about their interactions with informants. After more prodding by
Sanders and the judge, the department eventually found 1,157 pages of those
notes, which officials said were unauthorized and unread by sheriff's
department brass.

And thousands of pages of additional notes and 68 boxes of documents that had
not been looked at were uncovered. Finally, prosecutor Murphy's team found
30,000 emails and notes in sheriff's department computers, but decided not to
give them to Sanders.

"They (sheriff's employees) are not giving answers that make sense and neither
is the attorney general," Goethals said during the current hearing.

On Friday, the legal maneuvering finally returns to Dekraai and the lives he
took: Victoria Buzzo, 54; David Caouette, 64; Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Michele
Daschbach Fast, 47; Michelle Marie Fournier, 48; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65;
Laura Webb Elody, 46; and Christy Lynn Wilson, 47. Hattie Stretz was also shot,
but survived.

Goethals has said he will take into account the families' feelings. Some are
encouraging him to block the death penalty, so they will not have to attend
more court proceedings.

Other relatives of the victims want Dekraai to die.

What's clear is that Orange County's justice system has been altered in many
ways.

Rackauckas has added a new training workshop at the sheriff's academy on using
informants and the rights of inmates; as well as preserving defense evidence.

Defense attorneys are scouring their cases for informants, demanding more
information on their histories and how they were used. Attempts are being made
to reopen cases based on the improper use of informants.

And there is heightened sensitivity about the potential for prosecutors and law
enforcement to improperly seek an edge in criminal cases.

"When the prosecution engages in misconduct designed to give a tactical
advantage, the judge will remove the advantage," said Dunham, of the Death
Penalty Information Center.

(source: Press-Telegram)

**********************

OC Sheriff Continues to Hide Evidence on Eve of Death Penalty Case Ruling



Orange County court records long ago established that Tony Rackauckas' district
attorney's office and Sandra Hutchens' sheriff's department took a slam-dunk
death-penalty case in People v. Scott Dekraai and unnecessarily cheated
behind-the-scenes in hopes of robbing the defendant of a fair penalty phase and
guaranteeing a state execution. After all, there's no question that in October
2011 Dekraai, unhinged over a child-custody dispute, killed 8 innocent people
and severely wounded another at a Seal Beach salon where his former wife
worked. There's also no question local juries have supported capital punishment
for far less carnage. As Weekly readers know, the government's rush to put
Dekraai on death row resulted in unintended consequences. Investigations into
law enforcement's conduct in the case have produced 4 1/2 years' worth of ugly
revelations demonstrating the eagerness of officials to rig the
criminal-justice system when they believed no one would ever discover their
misdeeds.

At week's end, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, a former homicide
prosecutor, plans to announce a historic decision in Dekraai. Will Goethals
side with Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Murphy, who insists the government
stopped cheating and that prior abuses won't trample the defendant's
constitutional fair-trial rights at a future penalty phase? Or will the judge
support Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders' contention that the
prosecution team has proven its unsavory inclinations and continues to act
unethically by hiding documents, a fact he says should result in the removal of
the death-penalty option in exchange for eight consecutive life-in-prison
sentences without the possibility of parole?

To sway Goethals, Murphy argued on Aug. 10 that Hutchens' Orange County
Sheriff's Department (OCSD) has finally complied with his 2013 discovery orders
to surrender all evidence and that, even if the agency hasn't, it's absurd to
think the sheriff would be hiding records that could benefit Dekraai at the
penalty stage. "There is not a bit of evidence that suggests this sheriff's
department or any sheriff's department maintains records of good behavior of
capital inmates for use at a penalty phase trial," the deputy AG said.

Murphy's spin is disingenuous, at best, and Sanders is right about his mantra
from the outset of what has become nationally known as the Orange County
jailhouse-informant scandal. Jail deputies consistently turn over evidence that
helps Rackauckas' prosecutors win trials and, abandoning their sworn ethical
oaths, hide or destroy records helpful to defendants. For example, despite
Goethals literally shaking his head in amazement, OCSD is still withholding six
years of jail records at the Theo Lacy Facility, where Dekraai has been housed
with government informants seeking perks for collecting negative stories on the
high-profile inmate. Even if the deputy AG is clueless about the implications
of what such buried evidence could contain, its potency is exposed in yet
another slam-dunk-but-screwed-up death-penalty case: People v. Richard Raymond
Ramirez.

In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall vacated Ramirez's
capital-punishment verdict for the 1983 rape and murder of 22-year-old Kim
Gonzalez in Garden Grove. Marshall ruled that the jury foreman hid a personal
bias by failing to disclose he was seeking FBI employment during the trial. The
DA's office won a second guilty verdict in May 2013, but the jury deadlocked
7-5 on the death-penalty question.

Prosecutors blamed their loss on a prison guard who reported Ramirez had been
"a model prisoner" for years. Instead of accepting the validity of the
testimony, government officials decided to sabotage it so that a 3rd jury would
believe Ramirez just "hadn't been caught" committing crimes in prison rather
than he'd "chosen to behave well." As court records show, they implemented a
devious, 2-pronged plan.

"The prosecution chose to have OCSD test Ramirez's propensity and character for
wrongdoing, believing - falsely - that either the information would bolster
their case or simply be irrelevant [and, thus, hidden from the defense],"
Senior Deputy Public Defender Seth Bank wrote in a 2013 brief.

Pretending to be carrying out normal inspections and not desperately trying to
find evidence helpful to prosecutors, jail deputies began conducting a series
of raids on Ramirez's cell just days after the jury deadlocked. They found
nada, so Alexander Frosio, a jailhouse informant for the government, entered
the scene. Deputies placed Frosio (a.k.a. "Scarface") in Ramirez's jail module,
supplied the snitch with extra food, and told him to "keep an eye" on their
target because they wanted to "know everything he's doing," according to court
records.

Gordon Bridges, another Orange County Jail (OCJ) inmate in the same module,
confirmed the story. Bridges told defense investigators that Frosio, a violent
gangster with 5 arrests - the 1st at age 11 - bragged he was working for
deputies and that he'd tried to "set up" Ramirez on their behalf by getting him
to possess contraband in his cell.

"Not only has Ramirez maintained a clean record for 30 years, but when the
prosecution subjected him to a covert investigation, testing his resolve for
good behavior, his good character proved resolute, as he rebuffed efforts to
corrupt him," Bank wrote. "The failed efforts of an experienced informant . . .
to persuade Ramirez to engage in wrongdoing, makes for a compelling case about
his commitment to good behavior."

Compounding the mess, Frosio wrote extensive notes of his activities for OCSD.
But deputies, who concocted misleading reports to confuse any future
inquisitors about their maneuvers, claimed ignorance of their existence when
requested for defense inspection. Adamantly denying any government hanky-panky,
the DA's office finally secured the death penalty for Ramirez in February 2015.

Given Ramirez, it's not just that Murphy is wrongly alleging Hutchens'
department could never collect information allowing a capital-case defendant to
argue mitigating factors, but he's also choosing to play dumb about that case's
undeniable ties to Dekraai. Deputies placed Sanders' client with Frosio in the
Theo Lacy Facility, but, as with Ramirez, they claim they don't have a single
record of his work.

Might this be another example of OCSD hiding evidence that could hurt the
government's position? The obvious answer, considering all the revelations from
Goethals' special evidentiary hearings, is yes, and there's a smoking-gun piece
of evidence Hutchens, her deputies and Murphy refuse to explain.

Lieutenant Mike McHenry, whom the sheriff assigned to supposedly figure out
which files hadn't been given to the judge after years of stonewalling his
discovery orders, recently wrote internal notes that referenced a computerized
Special Handling Unit file folder for Frosio. If the sheriff is being honest
that she possesses no Frosio files, why would deputies, who manage jail
informants, have such a folder, and why hasn't it been surrendered?

Sanders has an answer: The prosecution team is still angling to unfairly tilt
Dekraai's penalty phase in their favor, a stance the deputy AG calls laughable.

"[Sanders'] argument is that 'Well, we are certain they are hiding something,'"
said Murphy, who's been exceptionally secretive about OCSD documents he's
obtained. "He seems to believe that there are records either from confidential
informants or about confidential informants by deputies that document good
behavior by his client that would be relevant to a mitigating case. . . . I
think that's just preposterous."

(source: OC Weekly)

********************************

Sentencing delayed for burglar who killed 92-year-old National City
woman----Peter Thao, who was arrested in connection with the death of a
92-year-old woman in National City, pleaded guilty Thursday to murder and
residential burglary charges.



On the day set for his sentencing hearing, a man who admitted he broke into a
National City home last year and killed a 92-year-old woman asked to withdraw
his guilty plea and serve as his own lawyer in the case.

Peter Thao, 27, pleaded guilty in June to residential burglary and 1st-degree
murder in connection with the death of Maria Consuelo Rivera, a longtime
National City resident and fixture in the Filipino community there.

As a condition of his plea, Thao agreed to a term of 31 years to life in
prison.

Several of the victim's family members showed up to Chula Vista Superior Court
on Wednesday afternoon expecting to see Thao receive the agreed-upon prison
sentence. Instead, they watched as the deputy public defender assigned to the
case was relieved of her duty to Thao.

Judge Ana Espana then went through a series of standard warnings, meant to
impress upon the defendant what would be expected of him if he was allowed to
represent himself.

Thao said he understood, and the judge granted his request.

He is now scheduled to return to court Sept. 25, when the judge will hear
Thao's formal motion to withdraw his guilty plea. If that request is granted,
the case will proceed and Thao will once again face the possibility of the
death penalty if he is convicted of the charges and allegations filed by the
District Attorney's Office.

If the motion is denied, he will be sentenced immediately.

Thao, a Mira Mesa resident, was arrested in November, about 3 weeks after the
victim was killed.

Rivera's body was discovered Oct. 22, when her daughter arrived about 6 p.m. at
the apartment they shared on D Street near East Plaza Boulevard.

Rivera died of blunt-force trauma, according to National City police. It's not
clear whether a weapon was used or what items, if any, were taken from the
home.

Police and prosecutors have not said how they linked Thao to the crime.

Several of Rivera's family members were in court Wednesday. 2 of Rivera's
grandchildren, both of whom had traveled from out of town to be at the hearing,
took the opportunity to make their statements to the judge because they likely
would not be able to return in September.

Joie Rivera told the defendant to look at her when she spoke. He appeared to
comply.

"Peter Thao, you don't know me from Adam..." Rivera said, calling the defendant
a coward and a lowlife. "We are connected by virtue of the fact that you
murdered my grandmother."

She said Rivera had been in the National City community for 40 years, and was
known for her generosity, honesty and fierce independence.

According to family members, Rivera raised her five children in the Philippines
city of Baguio, where she launched several businesses including a beauty parlor
and a laundering service. In the United States, she worked as a housekeeper at
a local hotel.

"You robbed us of our matriarch," said Editha Aguilar, who described visiting
her grandmother - or "lola' in Tagalog - in early October and seeing first-hand
that she was healthy in "body, mind and psyche."

"Grandma Lola was going to live to be a centenarian," she said.

(source: The San Diego Union-Tribune)








USA:

Texas truck driver indicted for 10 migrants' deaths can face death
penalty----US grand jury hands down 5 charges, including 1 that carries the
death penalty, against James Matthew Bradley Jr who was allegedly behind a
horror truck journey that saw 10 undocumented migrants suffocate to death.



The driver of a tractor-trailer packed with people illegally entering the
United States from Mexico in an alleged human smuggling operation was indicted
Wednesday on charges related to the deaths of 10 people inside.

James Matthew Bradley Jr was charged by a federal grand jury in San Antonio on
5 counts, including illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain,
resulting in death, and a separate count of conspiracy to transport immigrants
illegally, resulting in death.

Those charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

A spokesman for the US Attorney's office in San Antonio declined to say
Wednesday if prosecutors would pursue the death penalty.

One of Bradley's attorneys did not immediately return a message seeking
comment.

Bradley was also indicted on two counts related to illegally transporting
immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury, and 1 count of firearm
possession by a convicted felon. The indictment alleges Bradley, who pleaded
guilty in 1997 to a felony domestic violence case in Colorado, was in
possession of a .38-caliber pistol.

Crammed inside

At least 39 people were inside the trailer as it drove from the border city of
Laredo to San Antonio, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) north. The trailer's
refrigeration system was broken, and investigators said passengers struggled to
breathe as the temperature rose to dangerous levels.

1 witness said he heard people crying and asking for water.

At least 22 survivors have been released from the hospital and are being held
in detention as potential witnesses against Bradley. Two survivors remained
hospitalised as of Wednesday.

4 of the survivors testified before the grand jury, Michael McCrum, a San
Antonio attorney appointed to represent them, said.

"They came to America wanting just to work, as they could not find a job in
Mexico that could support their families. And yet, the circumstances of what
happened brought them to this situation," McCrum said in an email. "They were
asked to tell the truth about how they suffered, and they did."

Investigators have said they believe Bradley was part of a broader conspiracy
funding and planning the smuggling operation, though they have not announced
any additional arrests or charges.

According to a criminal complaint released in July, Bradley told investigators
that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from
Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. But said he had driven to Laredo and stopped twice
there before driving back to San Antonio, in the opposite direction from
Brownsville.

He denied knowing people were inside the trailer. After hearing banging and
shaking, he opened the door and was "surprised when he was run over by
'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," according to the criminal
complaint.

The deceased

Most of the people known to have been on board were from Mexico. Others are
believed to have fled from the truck after it stopped.

The US Attorney's office identified 8 of the 10 people who died.

Seven were from Mexico: 27-year-old Ruben Hernandez Vargas; 21-year-old Osbaldo
Rodriguez Cerda; 26-year-old Jorge Reyes Noveron; 36-year-old Jose Rodriguez
Aspeitia; 37-year-old Benjamin Martinez Arredondo; 24-year-old Ricardo Martinez
Esparza; and Mariano Lopez Cano, whose age is unknown. Another person, Frank
Fuentes, was from Guatemala. A Guatemalan diplomat previously said that Fuentes
had been deported and was trying to return to his family in Maryland.

Lopez Cano and Martinez Esparza died at an area hospital.

A continuing problem of human trafficking

Human smuggling operations often linked to Mexican drug cartels are a problem
for law-enforcement along the United States' southern border.

Border Patrol agents in West Texas found 20 people crammed in a semitrailer
just this week, one day after police in the border city of Edinburg discovered
16 people inside another trailer.

(source: trtworld.com)

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