Blog #4: Sourcing

For this assignment, I picked The Washington Post’s “Supreme Court considers a case of a shot fired in U.S. that killed a teenager in Mexico.” The story has more than five human and data sources which is why I have decided to highlight some of the many key sources.

The story is about a border patrol agent who fired a gun in El Paso, Texas and the bullet of the gun struck a 15-year-old boy in Juarez, Mexico, merely 60 feet away. The Supreme Court will be deciding on Tuesday whether the Constitution gives the victim, Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca’s parents the right to sue Mesa in American courts for killing their son.

The first source in the story, Judge Edith H Jones from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, wrote in a statement the question would “create a breathtaking expansion of federal court authority … and would have severely adverse consequences for the conduct of American foreign affairs.”

The second source in the story would be the lawyers of the victim’s parents. In their brief to the Supreme Court they write, that federal agents cannot kill innocent civilians in “a legal no-man’s land” without punishment.

Another source is mentioned in the lawyer’s brief. According to an Arizona Republic investigation, there have been more than 40 killings by border patrol agents. Additionally, there have been 10 cross-border shootings, with six deaths.

One data source in this story is the precedent case that supports the border patrol agent. In a 1990 case called United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, a four-member plurality of the court ruled the Constitution does not protect noncitizens from the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents beyond the border.

Another data source supports the plaintiffs. A 2008 case, Boumediene v. Bush, regarding the rights of those held at Guantanamo Bay, the court took what is called a “functional” approach to border issues. It said the totality of the circumstances, not just location, must be considered.

I think the reporter did a great job in incorporating data and human sources that tell both sides of the argument. He presented the case as an unbiased reporter should and let the reader make a decision based on good information. Like any good reporter, I believe that this reporter did some extensive research into this case and all previous cases that bore any similarity. Digging up precedent cases from the 90s is the kind of work a reporter committed to the story does. The sources he picked were chosen carefully so as to get both sides of the story. He picked sources that communicate why ignoring the case could be a problem and also why acknowledging the case could be problematic as well. Overall, I think this is story is unique in itself because it is not often you hear about a case like this one. At the same time, it is the selection of the sources that make this story even more compelling to a reader because of the well presented facts before them.


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