Wick News Service
According to a press release issued Wednesday from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Barnett argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that the late federal Judge John Roll had made significant errors during the trial in 2009 in Tucson. MALDEF opposed his request and the Supreme Court sided with MALDEF.
In February of 2009, the jury ordered Barnett to pay $17,800 in compensatory damages, but found him only 75 percent at fault, so he only owed $13,350. He was ordered to pay $4 in nominal damages. The panel also ordered he pay a total of $60,000 in punitive damages to four plaintiffs. So, the total owed was $73,354.
It remains unclear whether or not Barnett will be required to pay all of this money. Attorneys representing Barnett filed a motion on Wednesday asking the federal court in Tucson to amend and partially set aside the judgment of February 2009.
The motion points out that in April of this year, the Arizona legislature enacted and the governor signed a law stating that "A person who is present in the state in violation of federal immigration law related to improper entry by an alien shall not be awarded punitive damages in any court in this state." The act applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2004.
On March 7, 2004, Barnett encountered a group of about 20 illegal entrants, on or near his property a few miles north of the border. In March of 2005, 16 of the entrants sued him. Four of the entrants recovered a judgment on two state law claims, assault and infliction of emotional distress, according to the defense.
In the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fundâ€™s press release, the group stated that "armed with a gun and accompanied by a large dog, Barnett held the group captive, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. Barnett kicked a defenseless woman as she lay on the ground during the encounter."
â€śRoger Barnett can hide no more behind his frivolous appeal,â€ť stated MALDEF staff attorney Marisa Bono. â€śIt is time for Barnett to pay the victims for his deplorable actions as the jury found and the late Judge John Roll directed.â€ť
A spokesman for Barnett said in a written statement issued Wednesday that Barnett testified "whenever he encountered illegal aliens it was generally impossible to determine (with our without binoculars) from a distance whether they were armed and hostile, so he always made it a practice to approach such groups with a loaded firearm."
During the trial, Border Patrol agents testifying for the defense confirmed that over the course of several years they had more than one discussion with Barnett and that they had repeatedly cautioned him it could be very dangerous to approach a group of illegal aliens without taking proper precautions for his own safety, stated the spokesman.
The spokesman also stated Barnettâ€™s dog, an Australian sheep dog, was his constant companion and was always very protective of him. The dog was never considered to be "dangerous or vicious to humankind."
According to additional testimony, the spokesman pointed out, as Barnett approached the group, the two women appeared to be sleeping or napping. Being uncertain whether the reclining women were feinting sleep and really armed and prepared to inflict harm on him and his dog, he kicked the soles of the reclining women not with sufficient force to injure them but rather to alert them to open their eyes and stand up erect so he could better judge their intentions.
"Subsequent testimony indicated that when Border Patrol agents arrived on the scene (summoned to the scene by Mr. Barnett using a radio or cellphone) none of the illegal aliens were determined (by Border Patrol) to have been injured in any way by Mr. Barnett," added the spokesman.