#Cabeza9 Trial Daily Updates

Day 2

  1. Trial began with Dr. Warren again testifying to the spiritual imperative to provide aid in The Growler Valley, saying “the Growler Valley is a place of high and immediate need. It would be a hollow expression of my faith to not visit this area.”
  2. Pima County Medical Examiner Greg Hess testified that there have been over 100 deaths per year in Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties since 2000. Unlike other medical examiners offices, the Pima County office employs two forensic archaeologists in order to identify and account for these deaths.
  3. The prosecution attempted to discredit Hess by questioning the accuracy and conclusions of the data and implied that drinking water could be harmful for people dying of dehydration.  They went so far as to imply that recovered remains that have been found in the desert could have been there for 50 years, a claim that was quickly renounced by Hess.
  4. Mapping Expert Ed McCullough testified that the place Scott was stopped and charged for providing humanitarian aid is in the middle of a “trail of deaths” in the west desert.
  5. Long term NMD volunteer Catherine Gaffney testified to the necessity of the work and the depth of Dr. Warren’s dedication to it.  She spoke of people becoming used to the level of crisis and “the fact that this emergency has been going on for more than a decade doesn’t make it any less of an emergency. It just makes it more of a tragedy.”
  6. Brother Sam Nasada, a Franciscan Friar, shared a moving account of a time he and Dr. Warren came upon human remains in the desert outside Ajo.
  7. Sid Slone, the refuge manager of Cabeza Prieta, once more testified to the fact that he is “not aware how many people have perished on the refuge.” When asked by Judge Collins if there is food and water at rescue beacons, Slone said, “that would defeat the purpose.

Day 1

  1. Federal Prosecutors Anna Wright and Nathaniel Walters call their one and only witness: Jose Luis Valenzuela.  They start by asking Valenzuela about rescue beacons, implying that the humanitarian aid work of No More Deaths and other groups is unnecessary.  Valenzuela reports that, mere days after detaining and questioning Dr. Warren, he found a human skull in the same area.
  2. Defense Attorney Amy Knight presents a compelling motion for acquittal for the abandonment of property charges, stating that the government has failed to meet the burden of proof. She argues that the laws on Cabeza “were created before the current migrant crisis, before people were dying in droves.” The motion is denied.
  3. Defense team presents opening argument, outlining how Dr. Scott Warren acted in ways consistent with his spiritual beliefs and therefore he is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
  4. Defense argues to limit the scope of Warren’s testimony to only include information related to his “deeply held spiritual beliefs.” Attorney Greg Kuykendall argues that because he was not granted the chance to testify in a pre-trial hearing on RFRA, he has a right to this protection. Judge Raner Collins agrees that the failure to be granted a pre-trial hearing puts Warren in a difficult situation, but refuses to limit scope of his testimony
  5. Dr. Warren takes the stand stating that, “to me all life is sacred and places are sacred as well… the sense of sacredness is in the continued presence and life force of the struggles that people undergo in that place.” He testifies that over the last 6 years he has been involved in the recoveries of 18 migrants who have died in the desert.
  6. During cross examination, Prosecutor Walters asks no questions about Warren’s spiritual beliefs and instead jumps into a line of questioning about Warren’s actions on June 1st, 2017 and his role within organization No More Deaths..

Evidence in Scott Warren Trial Points to Government Surveillance and Retaliation

A motion filed by the defense in the case of United States v. Scott Warren last week in Tucson federal court has revealed the sweeping extent of government surveillance of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes and the retaliatory nature of Dr. Warren’s arrest in January of 2018. The Motion to Dismiss due to Selective Enforcement details months of communication between U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, beginning as early as July 2017 and discussing the movement and activities of No More Deaths volunteers in Ajo, AZ

According to the motion, on January 8th, 2018, nine days before Dr. Warren’s arrest, “[Border Patrol Agent] Marquez then provided Scott Warren’s home address to [USFWS Law Enforcement Agent] Ebann…The two exchanged information about vehicles Ebann had observed at the Barn, which included some he referred to as ‘the NMD vehicles.’ Ebann even told Marquez that ‘Warrens POV [privately owned vehicle] is there as well,’ to which Marquez responded ‘Oh nice’. The two law enforcement agents thus kept track not only of where Scott Warren lived, but also what kind of car he drove, and his whereabouts. This exchange makes clear that Marquez had his sights set on NMD, and Scott Warren specifically, although he never stated any reason to suspect them of doing anything illegal.”

On January 17th, 2018, No More Deaths released a report documenting Border Patrol’s routine interference with humanitarian aid efforts. The report was released alongside footage collected over several years showing Border Patrol agents destroying and/or removing aid supplies left in the desert. The motion asserts that Dr. Warren’s arrest was a targeted act of political retaliation resulting from No More Deaths’ open criticism of Border Patrol’s human rights abuses

The motion also examines, in detail, the communications of the Border Patrol agents who surrounded and surveilled “the Barn,” a base of operations for numerous humanitarian aid groups in Ajo, on the morning of January 17th. The agents spent the morning tracking No More Deaths volunteers’ activities in and around the Barn as well as at the office of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. According to the motion, “At 4:38 pm, Marquez reports, he saw Dr. Warren step outside the Barn with two individuals he believed to be undocumented. At this point, [his partner BP Agent] Burns sent two messages…In the message to [BP Agent] Ballesteros and Marquez, Burns says, ‘2 toncs at the house’. Ballesteros responds, ‘What!?!?!?!?!?! Nice!’ This is surely not the reaction of a professional Border Patrol Agent every time he locates an undocumented individual.”

Previous statements from the arresting officers have asserted that their surveillance of the Barn on the afternoon January 17th was driven by information that two undocumented individuals were suspected to be in the Ajo area. Upon cross-examination, it was revealed that the officers had tried to obtain absolutely no descriptive information about the two individuals in question and knew nothing about their height, age, hair color, or other identifying features. The defense lawyers go on to assert that Agent Ballesteros’ exclamation is not “the reaction of a Border Patrol Agent who had a reasonable suspicion in the first place that the surveillance of the Barn was going to reveal the presence of undocumented aliens. Rather, it evidences Agent Ballesteros’s excitement at the idea of ‘busting’ NMD.”

Read the text of the motion here.

Statement by #Cabeza9 defendants

Firstly, we want to acknowledge that we are standing on occupied land of the Tohono O’odham people. Let us not forget the illegality of the United States of America on indigenous territory and the way the US has ravaged Central America, forcing diaspora. Furthermore, this government has considered slavery and genocide as legal for hundreds of years.

We may have been found guilty but the real crime is the government’s deliberate policy to use “death as a deterrent” at the US/Mexico border. The criminalization of those acting in solidarity is a classic example of the ramping up of an authoritarian regime.

The humanitarian work that has ultimately brought us here today will continue to address the border crisis until there are no more deaths.

We refuse to stand by and watch silently as the United States becomes more and more deeply authoritarian. This is something that affects and should concern us all.

The four of us want to thank everyone in our families and communities here and across the world for their unbelievably wonderful support and solidarity. We also want to thank our team of lawyers and those of you here today who are prioritizing telling this story.

OP ED: “I’m being prosecuted for trying to save the lives of three migrants”

The below op ed, published earlier this month by CNN , was written by Parker Deighan, the abuse documentation coordinator for No More Deaths and one of the #Cabeza9 defendants.

February 1, 2019 – In a little over a month, I will go on trial for driving a vehicle in the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, a vast wilderness area in Arizona that shares a border with Mexico. At the time of my offense, I was a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, searching for three migrants who were lost without water. I was responding to a call from a family member who contacted our Search and Rescue hotline, after being turned away from law enforcement. Though I was never able to reach those migrants, I have since learned that two were detained and one was never found.

Continue reading OP ED: “I’m being prosecuted for trying to save the lives of three migrants”