Hernandez v Mesa: Whether the Fourth Amendment Applies Outside of U.S?


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the arguments for Hernandez v Mesa on Tuesday February 21st.  Considering the current relationship between America and Mexico, this case will play a significant role on the current border relationship and its tension.

Sergio Hernandez was a fifteen-year-old who was shot and killed by Jesus Mesa, an U.S Border Patrol Agent.  Hernandez was on the side of the Mexican culvert, alleged by his family, playing and fooling around there with his friends when alterations took place and Mesa fired at Hernandez approximately 60 away from him, on the U.S. side of the border.

The question before the Court is  (1) Whether a formalist or functionalist analysis governs the extraterritorial application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unjustified deadly force, as applied to a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican citizen in an enclosed area controlled by the United States; (2) whether qualified immunity may be granted or denied based on facts – such as the victim’s legal status – unknown to the officer at the time of the incident; and (3) whether the claim in this case may be asserted under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents.

At Federal Court the lawsuit was dismissed based on Mesa did not violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects Hernandez from from death due to from unjustified lethal force, and the Fifth Amendment, grantee’s a right to have a life not deprived without due process of law. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the decision of the Federal Court. Now the case before the Supreme Court, the Judges have to decide what standard should be implemented by Courts to determine whether the Fourth Amendment applies outside of the U.S.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.