After three days, trial has concluded. Magistrate Judge Velasco took the matter under advisement and will issue a verdict in the coming days or weeks. Stay tuned for updates on the verdict.
- Defendant Zaachila Orozco delivered stirring testimony describing leaving water along the “trail of death” on Cabeza Prieta: “Water is life. Water is necessary for everybody. We are made of water. Everything is connected. I believe that everyone who walks on this earth should be able to drink some water.”
- In an aggressive cross-examination, prosecutor Nate Waters asked defendant Natalie Hoffman, an EMT, if she advised thirsty border crossers “how to drink the water” and implied that water is a dangerous treatment for dehydration because someone might drink water too fast
- Defendant Madeline Huse recounted how she and other NMD volunteers found over a dozen sets of human remains in the desert outside Ajo in one month alone.
- USFWS Refuge Supervisor Juliette Fernández, responsible for supervising the management of Cabeza Prieta, testified that it was “not within my job responsibility” to keep track of how many people die on the Refuge.
- Fernandez also provided misleading testimony about the efficacy of Border Patrol rescue beacons, claiming that activation of a beacon triggers “an immediate lifeflight.” In fact, DHS’s own data shows that in 2015, the Yuma Sector’s 21 rescue beacons were activated a total of 1,161 times and resulted in 2 rescues.
- The prosecution closed by repeating their assertion that providing lifesaving humanitarian aid constitutes criminal conduct and claiming that defendants had “a choice” about whether to provide humanitarian aid to alleviate a crisis of death on the border.
- The defense rested their case with a moving reminder of what is at stake: the right to survival of people moving through the borderlands. Attorney Louis Fidel asked Judge Velasco to remember Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
- Former Asst. US Attorney Robert Bartels, who studied every recorded violation at Cabeza from 2015-2018, testifying: “No matter how you look at it, no one who is not a member of No More Deaths had been referred for prosecution.”
- Cabeza Prieta Manager Sid Slone admits to creating the agency’s first “do not issue” list in June 2017 to deny NMD volunteers permits, even before permit language was changed. He also instructed staff to notify him if anyone who “looked like they were with NMD” came in seeking a permit.
- Mr. Slone’s testimony reveals that the creation of the permit language forbidding humanitarian aid was a joint effort between US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, and Bureau of Land Management.
- Defendant Oona Holcomb stood strong during aggressive cross exam today: Prosecutor Nate Walters: “You wanted illegal aliens to find those supplies [water and food]?” Defendant Oona Holcomb: “I wanted people who were at risk of dying in the desert to find them.”
- Tucson Samaritan Ed McCullough testifies to the scale of crisis in AZ’s West Desert and how he alerted No More Deaths to the “trail of deaths” in the Growler Valley, where NMD volunteers were later charged.
- USFWS Officer Yuri Aitken testifies about a meeting in July 2017 with the US Attorneys Office, No More Deaths, Fish & Wildlife, and other federal agencies where he understood that “the DOJ does not appear to want to prosecute violations in regards to this group.”
- Prosecutor Anna Wright repeatedly invokes Border Patrol “rescue beacons” as an alternative to water caches for migrants in the desert, despite the fact that rescue beacons do not supply water — they are nothing more than a button to push and hope for a response (from law enforcement).
- US Fish and Wildlife Officer West testifies to removing food and water left out for migrants on Cabeza Prieta on a day when the temperature reached 110 degrees, agrees that the Refuge’s desert is one of the most extreme environments in North America.
- Agent West testifies that officers working on Cabeza Prieta are not informed when individuals die or go missing on the Refuge.
- Judge Velasco, presiding over the case in which US government is prosecuting NMD for leaving water for migrants crossing the desert, states: “I think it goes without saying you need water in the desert and without water, you’ll die.”
- Pima County Medical Examiner Dr. Greg Hess testifies to a staggering 2,816 undocumented border crossers whose remains were recovered from 2000-2017, states that no one knows the true number of deaths. He also testified to a direct correlation between outside temperature and likelihood of death: at 104 degrees likelihood is 50% and at 110 it is over 70%.
- Rev. John Fife wraps up with a statement on how No More Deaths volunteers embody faith in action: “The life of faith is not simply a matter of belief, it is a matter of what you do for those who are most in need.”
- Prosecutor Anna Wright shows remarkable insensitivity to the tragic loss of life of thousands of migrants, suggesting that data published by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office is unreliable because so many individuals go unidentified or are found long after death when remains have substantially deteriorated.