Editorials | Opinions | May 2005
|Force Mexico To Extradite|
Bob Baker - Guest Commentary
There is a country to the south of the United States that has become a fugitive paradise, willingly harboring and giving sanctuary to hundreds of murderers who have fled the United States after their crimes. In the past decade, any killers who make it across the border to Mexico are assured of not facing the criminal justice system in the United States.
|As of last year, the Justice Department had more than 800 open extradition cases for fugitives in Mexico.|
If Raul Garcia-Gomez, who is suspected in the shooting death of Denver police Detective Donnie Young and the wounding of Detective Jack Bishop, has made his way to Mexico, he is "home free."
Having decided that no murderer should ever have to spend their life in prison, Mexico arrogantly refuses to return fugitive killers to the United States. It has consistently refused to extradite murderers if they faced the death penalty. A 2001 Mexican Supreme Court decision in essence halted all extraditions of Mexican citizens, or Americans of Mexican descent. That decision forbade Mexico to extradite anyone if he faced a sentence which carried the possibility of life imprisonment, saying it was "cruel and unusual punishment."
In short, the thoroughly corrupt Mexican judicial system has decided the U.S. cannot prosecute even U.S. citizens if they make it to Mexico. Since Oct. 2, 2001, Mexico has repeatedly refused to return suspects for prosecution. As of last year, the Justice Department had more than 800 open extradition cases for fugitives in Mexico. Those fugitives include cop killers. Armando Garcia, a Mexican national in California illegally, allegedly shot to death Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy David March during a traffic stop in 2002. He is known to be in Mexico.
Not only does Mexico harbor killers, it insists on special treatment for its citizens who have been caught and prosecuted for murder in the United States. It has found a willing ally in the Bush administration, which refuses to press for extradition of murderers from Mexico. In March, the Bush administration ordered state courts to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals who are on death row. This represents a change of position for the president, who until now has shown little regard for either the Vienna Convention (which requires a country that detains a foreign citizen to notify that individual of his right to seek the help of a consular officer) or the International Court, which ordered the review.
Until March, the U.S. government viewed the International Court ruling as an unwarranted intrusion on the criminal justice system in the United States and an infringement on U.S. sovereignty. In the case of the death penalty, for instance, the people of Colorado and California, through their elected representatives, have decided it is a legitimate penalty. If criminals want to commit crimes in our jurisdictions, then they have to face the penalty we deem appropriate.
The National Association of Attorneys General, the Los Angeles Police Protective League and other organizations have pleaded with the federal government and U.S. legislators to negotiate with Mexico to stop this outrageous flouting of our justice system. We have been deliberately ignored by the Bush administration.
Our federal government is essentially blessing a system under which criminals can literally get away with murder if they can get across the Mexican border. Mexico has decided that until the United States rewrites its law to the approval of Mexico, then it will continue to provide a haven for fleeing criminals.
It is even more unconscionable that when a crime is committed against an American peace officer, government policy allows the criminal to escape facing the bar of justice. The U.S. government cannot continue to allow alleged cop-killers and others to flee our criminal justice system with impunity. Shut down this criminal black hole and force these cold-blooded criminals to face the music.
,i.Bob Baker is president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers.