The tragic case of the $20 million illegal alien
June 29, 2005
The facts of the case are such: On May 14, 2005, assistant vice president of Qwest Communications Jeff Garrett was turkey hunting 6 miles north of New Castle, Colo. Garrett’s hunting companions heard a shot, and after Garrett didn’t return to their vehicle, they mounted a search. Garrett was found dead, shot by a .22 caliber bullet. Garfield County Sheriff’s investigators identified a suspect, an employee of the nearby Bear Wallow Ranch, as the shooter. The suspect, an illegal alien, fled to Mexico the day after the shooting. The following is a fictional courtroom scenario that could play out over the next year or two in an actual Garfield County courtroom.A man sits in the witness chair of a small-town courtroom. His face is weathered and sunburned, but his brow is white from the shade of the Stetson that he holds in his hands. He is a mid-50s Caucasian man and though he is nicely dressed in Western clothing, he appears uncomfortable in the setting and new clothes. The gallery of the courtroom is packed with a mixture of reporters, dark-faced Latinos, Anglo ranch folk and some nervous-looking corporate types in good suits. One of the corporate types is older and a little on the dumpy side, and his aura is dour.At the plaintiff’s table sits a very attractive mid-30s Anglo woman in conservative clothing. She is flanked by two young, well-dressed, hungry-looking attorneys, both male – Messrs. Epstein and Callowell, who are representing the widow of a rising corporate star who was shot to death by a ranch employee while out turkey hunting. The plaintiffs are seeking $20 million in damages for gross negligence, extreme indifference, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of consort and punitive damages.Mr. Callowell begins questioning the witness, Mr. John Durand, ranch manager for the Cat’s Paw Ranch. He establishes that Mr. Durand has years of experience managing ranches and that he has been employed by Mr. Jack Smith, CEO of Flapjack House Inc., a national chain of pancake houses.Callowell: Mr. Durand, is it your practice to knowingly hire illegal aliens to work on the Cat’s Paw Ranch?Durand: No, sir. We check all their documents before we hire anybody.Callowell: Come again? Truly, Mr. Durand. Did you not find it suspicious that you hired one Arturo Gonzales, according to his green card, which has since been ascertained to be a forgery, yet all his friends called him “Pablo?”Durand: I checked and made sure that he had a green card.Callowell: I see. Did you call the INS to verify that the green card given to you by one Pablo Espinosa – I mean, Arturo Gonzales, as far as you knew – was genuine?Durand: No.Callowell: I see. What were the duties of Mr. Espinosa – or should I call him Mr. Gonzales?Durand: Clearing brush and building fence.Callowell: While Mr. Espinosa was building fence, did you supervise him and his co-workers? Did you supply them with tools and materials?Durand: Yes.Callowell: What kind of tools and materials?Durand: Well, we give ’em an ATV, a chain saw, and some hand tools such as a fence stretcher, hammer, fencing pliers, and so forth.Callowell: And a rifle?Durand: (Visibly uncomfortable, he squirms in the witness chair.) Well, yeah, and a rifle, too.Callowell: I see. What was the rifle for?Durand: Well, there’s lots of bears and mountain lions on our property, and we give ’em a rifle in case the ranch hands come into contact with predators.Callowell: You mean, in case they’re being threatened by predators?Durand: Well, that, and to protect our cattle.Callowell: When I was a kid growing up in Rifle, Colorado, I took a hunter’s safety course in safe firearms handling. Surely Mr. … uh … Espinosa provided you similar documentation from the state of… Chihuahua? (A ripple of laughter issues from the gallery.)Judge: (Slamming his gavel) Order! Order in the court!Durand: (reddening) Uh … no, he didn’t.Callowell: Mr. Durand, how many Mexicans have you employed or known over the years?Durand: Several dozen, I guess.Callowell: You’ve gotten to know some of them pretty well, I suppose? You speak Spanish with them, right?Durand: Sure. I speak Spanish.Callowell: So you know that it’s a rarity for an average Mexican to even own a firearm because of their strict firearm laws, and that Mexican firearms safety classes don’t even exist, right?Durand: (Stammering) Uh … I wouldn’t know about that.Callowell: Did Mr. Espinosa have a valid hunting license in his possession?Durand: Not to my knowledge.Callowell: You’ve stated that the owner of Cat’s Paw Ranch, Mr. Smith, uses the property as a hunting retreat and that you often guide him and his friends on their sojourns. You are aware, of course, that in order to buy a hunting license, a person must have a valid hunter’s safety card.Durand: Yes, I’m aware.Callowell: Did you personally train Mr. Espinosa in firearms safety, as you would with any other dangerous tool?Durand: Uhhhh … (long pause). No.Callowell: Was it mountain lion season or bear season on May 14, 2005?Durand: No.Callowell: I see. Are there wild turkeys in the vicinity of your ranch?Durand: Yes, lots of ’em.Callowell: Were you aware that turkey season was open on May 14, 2005?Durand: Yes.Callowell: Is it legal to shoot a turkey with a rifle?Durand: No.Callowell: It’s shotguns only, right? And you send out one … Pablo Espinosa, an illegal alien, who has no firearms training, no hunter’s safety card, and no hunting license, with a loaded rifle and carte blanche to shoot whatever the hell he wants. He hears a turkey gobbling, thinks he’s gonna pot one with the rifle you gave him, shoots the victim, and there’s a widow at the plaintiff’s table because of it, correct?Defense lawyer: Objection! Argumentative!Callowell: Withdrawn.(There is stunned silence in the court, and then an upswelling of murmuring)Judge: (rapping his gavel) Order in the court!Callowell: Mr. Durand, are your employees trained in first aid and CPR?Durand: Uhhhh … well, I took it a few years back.Callowell: It’s hard to find those classes in Spanish, isn’t it? But the point is, Pablo Espinosa wasn’t trained in first aid and CPR, was he?Durand: Not to my knowledge.Callowell: Do you think, Mr. Durand, that if Pablo Espinosa had had first-aid training, once he discovered he had shot a person instead of a turkey, he still would have run from the scene and left Mr. Garrett to die?Defense attorney: Objection! Mr. Durand has no way of knowing the answer to this question!Callowell: I suppose no one ever will. Withdrawn. I have no further questions.Gary Hubbell and his wife, Doris, own OutWest Guides, LLC, in Marble, Colo. Gary outfits summer horseback rides and autumn elk and deer hunts, and is a freelance writer and photographer. Gary is a native of Carbondale.