MALDEF Represents Fiancée of Luis Ramirez at Preliminary Hearing; Emotional Testimony Results in Court Ruling Directing Defendants to Stand Trial

To view the original email message, click here
Following is the main text of this month's newsletter.

AUGUST 26, 2008 – Last Monday, the three defendants charged with the hate crime against Luis Ramirez that resulted in his death last month in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania were ordered to stand trial as adults for their actions in a drunken, epithet-fueled attack that left the Mexican immigrant unconscious, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

The ruling ensures that two of the defendants will be tried on charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation for their roles in the attack, which caused Ramirez’s death two days later. A third defendant will be tried on counts of aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other charges.

During the preliminary hearing, witness testimony revealed the racial nature of the crime. A friend of the assailants who was present during the beating, but reportedly took no part in it, testified that the fight began when one of the defendants shouted ethnic slurs at Ramirez. A retired Philadelphia police officer testified that she heard one of the defendants yell "Tell your [expletive] Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you’ll be [expletive] laying next to him." The defendant’s comments were directed at Ramirez’s friends who came to his aid after receiving a distress call from him on a cell phone during the beating. Ramirez’s fiancée Crystal Dillman, wept as she described racing to the scene and coming upon the body of Ramirez convulsing and foaming at the mouth. She said that prior to the attack, Ramirez was frequently called race-based derogatory names and told to go back to Mexico.

After MALDEF's letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a hate crime investigation, and DOJ Community Relations Service representatives were sent to Shenandoah to ease racial tensions. MALDEF also called on the local prosecutor to charge the defendants with hate crimes, despite local officials’ initial denials that race played a role in the attack. Soon thereafter, the local prosecutor filed ethnic intimidation charges, among others.

Following the death of Luis Ramirez, MALDEF attorneys organized a peaceful candlelight vigil in his honor and held a national press conference to highlight the severity of the case, and to speak out against anti-immigrant sentiment, ordinances and hate crimes. MALDEF attorneys were back in Shenandoah last week for the preliminary hearing, and represented Ramirez’s fiancée as she testified in court. MALDEF attorneys are presently engaged with local officials and community groups to improve race relations. As the Shenandoah school year starts this week, MALDEF has called on school officials to assure Latino parents that schools will be safe environments and that ethnic harassment will not be tolerated.

MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña said that the case reveals a disturbing and widespread attitude towards immigrants. "Hate crimes against Hispanics have skyrocketed in recent years. Like the horrific deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, this tragic, senseless crime should be a wake-up call for all Americans," he said.

"We must squarely address this problem by taking on those who irresponsibly spew anti-immigrant rhetoric," said Gladys Limón, MALDEF Staff Attorney. "We must work together to drown out hate in the media. You can start by visiting our Truth In Immigration website."

MALDEF continues to closely monitor the case and to represent Luis Ramirez’s family as the criminal justice process proceeds.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund