A recent South Dakota Supreme Court decision in a Lesterville case has left a divided court and divided legal opinions in its wake.
Last week, the South Dakota Supreme Court handed down an opinion, which, in its attempt to ensure a defendant’s right to cross examine the witnesses against him, touches on the sensitive subject of today’s national policies and politics regarding immigration.
The appeal to the high court stemmed from a guilty verdict rendered in the case of South Dakota vs. Kevin Xavier Dickerson and Arianna Cherelle Reecy, a criminal case that was tried in circuit court.
According to court documents, a jury found co-defendants Reecy and Dickerson guilty of robbery and burglary and also found Dickerson guilty of aggravated assault against Julio Gomez Rojas. Reecy, an exotic dancer, met Rojas when she was working at a bar in Lesterville. She claims she asked Rojas, who had arranged for a private dance with her before, for money “to feed her children.” Reecy said Rojas agreed, but sexually assaulted her when she arrived at his apartment to collect and only gave her $20. Rojas claims that Reecy came with her armed boyfriend, Dickerson, and that the couple assaulted and robbed him.
There were several points of the case that involved conflicting witness testimonies, but the main witness against the couple was Rojas, an illegal immigrant. The judge ruled that identifying his illegal status was more likely to prejudice the jury against him, so defense attorneys barred from mentioning it in front of the jury.
As a victim cooperating with the state, Rojas confirmed that he knew he was entitled to a U-Visa and would likely apply for one “if it came to that,” he said, according to court documents.
The U-Visa program allows illegal immigrants, who are victims of certain crimes and cooperate with law enforcement to remain lawfully in the U.S. for four years. That period can be extended if law enforcement requires the person’s continued presence in the country to investigate or prosecute criminal activity, according to court documents.
Read the full story at the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.