Families Called to Identify Victims of Smuggling Attempt

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Prosecutors will have to call family members from out of the country to identify the 19 illegal immigrants who died in a tractor-trailer during a smuggling attempt.

That's because the truck driver on trial for their deaths has refused to enter an agreement acknowledging the victims' identities and that they were in the country illegally.

Tyrone Williams could face the death penalty for his role in the May 2003 attempt to smuggle more than 70 immigrants from South Texas to Houston.

Prosecutors say he abandoned the truck and failed to help the immigrants after they began succumbing to the deadly heat.

The defense says Williams was unaware that his passengers were dying until he stopped to buy them water and heard a call for help.

Legal observers say Williams' decision not to acknowledge the victims' identities could backfire when jurors are forced to observe grieving relatives as they view photos of their family members.

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