- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

DENVER — Thousands of fugitives now face justice in U.S. courts after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that criminals who face life in prison without the possibility of parole can be extradited.

The Tuesday decision reversed a 2001 court ruling that had frustrated U.S. prosecutors seeking to bring to trial some of the worst offenders, including murder suspects, police killers and drug traffickers.

“This is the culmination of three years’ work by our office and many others to get Mexico to reverse what was an outrageous decision,” said Jan Maurizi, director of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The 2001 decision was intended to comply with Mexico’s constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But it had the practical effect of enticing crime suspects to avoid U.S. capture by fleeing to Mexico.

As many as 3,000 such fugitives are thought to be avoiding U.S. authorities in Mexico, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.



The result was that prosecutors often either reduced the charges to win extradition or declined to file charges.

“Most prosecutors were not willing to seek extradition because they didn’t want to go along with Mexico’s rules,” Miss Maurizi said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of offices go back to their archives and re-evaluate cases they had previously decided not to pursue.”

The 6-5 court decision came shortly after President Bush signed a bill that cuts off aid to countries that refuse to extradite suspects in police deaths. The provision was introduced by Rep. Bob Beauprez, Colorado Republican, after a high-profile case earlier this year involving a Denver man accused of killing an officer and then fleeing to Mexico.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey charged the suspect, Raul Gomez-Garcia, with second-degree murder to improve the chances of extradition, even though he was wanted in the shooting death of one officer and the wounding of another.

Last week, Mexican authorities agreed to extradite Mr. Gomez-Garcia to face trial in Colorado.

Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney, praised the Tuesday ruling, but said it would have no effect on the Gomez-Garcia case. Any refiling of charges also would require prosecutors to restart the extradition process, which can take years.

“What this does is remove an obstacle for us in charging people appropriately,” she said.

Mr. Beauprez called the ruling “a victory for the United States’ justice system, as well as for victims and family members who deserve to see full justice served to those criminals who deserve it the most.”

A 1978 treaty between Mexico and the United States prevents the extradition of suspects who face the death penalty.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide