Murdered U.S. border agent Brian Terry's family wants justice, but it appears federal prosecutors are trying to ensure their voices are not heard at trial.
Fox News is reporting that the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona has opposed a routine motion to allow the Terry family to be considered crime victims by the court. Victim status would allow the Terry family to speak during the sentencing phase of a trial.
The Terry family has requested victim status in the trial of Jamie Avila, the 23-year-old Phoenix man who allegedly bought the gun that ended up in Mexican cartel hands and was used to kill Terry. Generally speaking, defense attorneys are the ones who oppose victim status motions in the court in order to protect the accused.
But in this instance, it was the prosecutor -- the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix -- that did not want victim status to be conferred.
That has raised questions about a possible conflict of interest for the United States Attorney Dennis Burke, who has claimed the Terry family was not "directly or proximately harmed" by the gun purchases. Burke also claimed that "society in general" and not a particular person was harmed by Avila's alleged weapons purchases.
Some analysts have pointed to the fact that U.S. Attorney Burke's office oversaw Operation "Fast and Furious" -- which has become steeped in scandal and is currently under investigation on Capitol Hill.
As for the motivations behind a U.S. Attorney denying victim status to the family or slain federal agent, Fox News postulated that:
"Under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act, the Terry family would have the right to confer with prosecutors and speak at Avila's sentencing. Some speculate that the U.S. Attorney's Office may cut a deal with Avila in exchange for information to be used against his associates. That deal could mean little or no jail time, and a controversial sentencing day in the courtroom.
Having the Terry family fight that deal, could further embarrass and complicate Burke's case. Burke may also be trying to protect the federal government. The family may pursue a wrongful death claim against federal agents, including Burke himself."
The motion on the Terry family's status for the Aviles trial has not yet been decided by the court, but it appears likely that politics at the highest level will play a role in what comes of every case stemming from Operation Fast and Furious.