Protests accompany immigrant murder trial

August 18, 2008 8:53:36 PM PDT
Emotions boiled over today in Schuylkill County, Pa. where the criminal justice system is in the process of dealing with three youths charged in the killing of an illegal immigrant. Outside the courtroom in Pottsville protesters from around the country demanded justice for Luis Ramirez... the Mexican illegal immigrant who was beaten to death during a late night brawl.

"We're here to say the hate has got to stop... not race... just to stop the hate," said Chicago resident Emma Lozano.

Police say 16-year-old Brandon Piekarsky, 17-year-old Colin Walsh and 18-year-old Derrick Donchak beat Ramirez in Shendandoah, Schuylkill County last month. He died two days after the attack.

Today a judge threw out first and second degree murder charges. Walsh and Piekarsky are now charged with homicide, Donchack is charged with assault. There is a fourth suspect being tried in juvenile court.

Today, a friend of the Shenandoah High School football players testified that all the teens were drinking liquor hours before the attack.

Ramirez's death has increased racial tensions in the town of Shenandoah. That was obvious at today's protest outside the courthouse. At one point the yelling forced a brief delay of the preliminary hearing.

Teresa Gutierez from New York City said, "No one has the right to become the judge, jury or executioner in this country no matter the legal status of any Latino or other immigrant."

The protestors were from workers and immigrants rights groups. Courthouse security had to intervene when one woman, Debbie Rabold, waved her passport and yelled, "Our tax dollars should be supporting us and the services for us. Not for illegal people who should not have gotten in here in the first place."

Walsh and Piekarsky face a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.