I am not unsympathetic to the plight of the immigrant, legal or illegal, but I also think this is probably the right decision.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed today the conviction of Javier Garcia-Villegas, who was convicted of illegally attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. In part, the conviction was based on the fact that Mr. Garcia admitted he had illegally attempted to enter the United States from Mexico.
You might think that would settle it, but under the corpus delicti rule, which is one of my favorite rules and one that I mention at cocktail parties all the time in order to sound more important, admissions of this kind must be "corroborated by substantial independent evidence," as an additional protection for the accused. The issue on appeal, therefore, was whether there had been such corroboration.
Noting that (1) a National Guardsman had testified he watched Garcia climb over the primary and secondary border fences and then hide in a bush, and (2) a Border Patrol agent had testified he apprehended Garcia whilst the latter was hiding in said bush, the court held that, in connection with two admissions of illegal entry, one made under oath after being read Miranda rights in Spanish, this was enough to establish that Garcia had tried to enter the country illegally.
The court unfortunately did not specify what Garcia's attorney had argued on appeal, but he did apparently argue something that did not work:
It is suggested that Garcia could have had some motive in his fence-climbing that was not based on a desire to avoid deportation as an alien. No doubt such a motive may be imagined. The imagined motive is not relevant. A reasonable fact-finder could infer from the fact that Garcia climbed two fences and hid in one bush that Garcia was conscious that he had no legal right to enter the United States.
You know, the Ninth Circuit gets criticized a lot, but I think it is pretty solid on this one.
Link: U.S. v. Garcia-Villegas, No. 08-50503 (9th Cir. Aug. 4, 2009).