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Texas Justice: Vigilante Killer Gets 6-Months For Migrant's Murder
Published on Saturday, August 25, 2001 by Reuters
Mexico Decries Sentence in Texas Migrant Slaying
 
MEXICO CITY - Mexico objected on Friday to a six-month prison sentence handed down by a Texas court against a Texas rancher convicted of the vigilante killing of an illegal Mexican migrant last year.

Also See:
Ranchers Gun Down Mexican Migrant In Search Of American Dream
Independent/UK 5/28/00

Vigilantes & Dishonest Federal Border Policies
Jack McGarvey/Denver Post 6/18/00

Blood And Bullets Along The Border As Arizona's Private Posses Hunt Mexican Migrants For Sport
Independent/UK 5/6/00
The court in Eagle Pass, Texas, found Samuel Blackwood, 74, guilty of homicide in the death in May last year of Eusebio de Haro, 22, but ordered him to serve an ``inexplicable'' sentence of 180 days, Mexico's Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement.

``For the Mexican government, it is unacceptable that a justice system can allow that a person proved to have taken the life of another by shooting him in the back not receive the severe punishment merited,'' the ministry said.

Blackwood was convicted of pursuing and firing on De Haro and another migrant after the two crossed the border illegally and stopped at Blackwood's ranch to ask for food and water in sweltering heat. De Haro bled to death after being shot in the groin, and the incident became a flashpoint for border tensions involving illegal migrants and ranchers.

The Mexican government is supporting De Haro's family in a pending civil suit against Blackwood.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited

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Published on Saturday, August 25, 2001 in the Houston Chronicle

Rancher Convicted in Immigrant's Death
by John Gonzalez

 BRACKETTVILLE -- A 76-year-old rancher who fatally shot an illegal Mexican immigrant was convicted of a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge Friday and fined the maximum $4,000.

Other terms of his sentence require Sam Blackwood to pay restitution for the emergency care, autopsy and funeral of Eusebio De Haro, who was slain May 13, 2000 after approaching Blackwood's secluded ranchhouse asking for water. Blackwood also was sentenced to a probated 180-day jail term.

Blackwood, who lives about 15 miles north of Brackettville, declined to comment on his conviction. Attorneys said they were considering an appeal of the Class A misdemeanor, which carried a maximum punishment of a year in jail.

Blackwood was ordered to report monthly to a community supervision officer here. He was forbidden from leaving Kinney County without written permission; was required to call the U.S. Border Patrol if he suspects other illegal immigrants are near his 125-acre ranch; and he was ordered to post in Spanish a warning that his ranch is under court order to report any sightings of suspected illegal immigrants.

"Maybe that will help," said District Judge George Thurmond.

All six jurors declined to comment on their verdicts, but after their dismissal, some jurors stopped to share hugs and shed tears with Blackwood family members and friends.

Blackwood attorney Mark Stevens told jurors he disagreed with their guilty finding. Jurors rejected defense claims that Blackwood acted in self defense against two aggressive wayfaring immigrants.

In convicting Blackwood, the jury concluded that he placed De Haro in immediate danger of seriously bodily injury by firing a gun in his direction. The prosecution didn't allege that Blackwood intended to slay De Haro, but it vigorously contested his self defense claim, relying largely on a coroner's finding that the victim was hit square in the back of the thigh and bled to death.

"Do not declare open season on illegal aliens," prosecutor Fred Hernandez implored the jury. "We've got to send a message that we all have to live by the same rules, the same laws."

Hernandez convinced jurors there was no credible evidence that Blackwood and his wife, Brenda, were threatened by the pair of immigrants who stood about 50 feet from their door and asked for water before being told to leave.

The jurors also rejected the couple's claims that the two men threatened them in a second encounter a quarter mile down a ranch road, where the Blackwoods had followed the immigrants. Brenda Blackwood testified the two unarmed Mexicans charged toward her and her husband.

Hernandez said the Blackwoods did the right thing when they called the Border Patrol after the first encounter, but they never should have pursued the men.

Blackwood's defense posed not only the self-defense claim but a second theory that the fatal bullet was a ricochet that wasn't fired in the victim's direction.

Stevens emphasized that there was no evidence of evil intent and he claimed the case was brought to appease the Mexican government.

"Justice is not what is driving this prosecution. Politics is what is driving this prosecution," Stevens said.

George Shaffer, an attorney who served as a consultant to the Mexican consulate in San Antonio that monitored the proceedings, said the verdicts were "an important signal to other people of this country that there are consequences for conduct that involves lawlessness."

In the sentencing phase, family members and friends said Blackwood was a law abiding citizen without any criminal past. They described him as truthful, peaceful, congenial, understanding, kind, loving, generous and thoughtful.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle San Antonio Bureau

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