When a jury gathers next week for the trial of two men charged with the murder of a U.S. federal agent, it will not hear any details of how two guns found at the murder scene were part of a U.S. government-sanctioned weapon program, a federal judge has ruled.
Friday morning, U.S. District Court Judge David Bury agreed with U.S. prosecutors to keep the details of Operation Fast and Furious out of the upcoming trial for the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Terry was killed in a firefight with a crew of armed Mexican men who were scouting the desert in search of drug smugglers to rob. Two AK-47 variants were found at the crime scene. Those rifles were purchased in a gun-tracking operation overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Operation Fast and Furious. ATF officials had hoped weapons purchased at a Glendale gun store would eventually turn up in the hands of high-level Mexican drug traffickers. Instead, ATF lost track of more than 1,400 guns. The two found at Terry’s death were part of the operation, congressional investigators later found.
Ivan Soto Barraza and Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza were apprehended in Mexico, two years later.
The U.S. asked the judge this summer to keep the details of Fast and Furious out of the murder trial, stating it was irrelevant.
Bury agreed. “I agree with one exception. I can’t find any relevance expect if the government should open the door,” he said.
If the government brings up the origins of the guns found, Bury ruled that defendants can then bring up Fast and Furious.
Bury ordered the defendants “not to refer to … or elicit any testimony regarding Operation Fast and Furious. Understood?”
Earlier this week, U.S. prosecutors also proposed a series of questions for jurors: “Has anyone been exposed to publicity from any source pertaining to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry?”
It then stated in its proposal: “Although not relevant to the charges against the defendants in this case, has anyone heard of an operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms commonly referred to as “Fast and Furious?”
Finally, the United States wrote: “If any jurors answer either or both questions in the affirmative, the United States requests that the court conduct an individual inquiry of that juror outside the presence of the other venire members.”