The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared closely divided over whether to revive a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a Mexican teenager against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who fatally shot the 15-year-old from across the border in Texas in 2010.
The eight justices could be headed to a 4-4 split, with conservatives skeptical of allowing the case to move forward and liberals more supportive of the boy’s family. The court is reviewing an April 2015 ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that threw out the civil rights claims against the agent, Jesus Mesa, filed by the family of Sergio Hernandez.
The justices heard the case at a time that the security of the lengthy U.S.-Mexico border is a hot topic, with President Donald Trump moving forward with plans for a border wall he said is needed to combat illegal immigration.
The case raises several legal questions, including whether the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unjustified deadly force did not apply to Hernandez because he was a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil when the shooting occurred in June 2010.
A 4-4 tie would leave in place the appeals court decision in a favor of the agent. The court could also delay action on the case to see if Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the court, conservative appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Gorsuch could then potentially cast the deciding vote.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)