Help The Chapmans Fight Extradition To Mexico

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Mexico Wants Dog So Badly: American Bounty Hunting Is An Offense To Mexican Sovereignty

American bounty hunters have broad powers. In 1872, in Taylor v. Taintor, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a bounty hunter in pursuit of a bail-jumper "may pursue him into another State; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and, if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose." The U.S. Supreme court also made it clear, however, in Reese v. United States, that American bounty hunters may not pursue suspects across international borders. Specifically, a U.S. bounty hunter's "power of arrest can only be exercised within the territory of the United States."

Bounty hunting (at least by Americans) is illegal in Mexico. Indeed, Mexico views bounty hunters as serious law violators -- as rogue cops and violators of Mexican national sovereignty. Until 1990, Mexican police typically tolerated bounty hunting and many Mexican police were well paid to assist bounty hunters in their efforts.

Bounty hunting by U.S. citizens became a politically senstive issue in Mexico in 1990 when U.S. DEA agents hired Mexican bounty hunters to kidnap Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican doctor, and bring him into the United States to face charges for his alleged participation in the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarero. Without filing an extradition request or notifying Mexican authorities, the DEA hired armed Mexican bounty hunters that kidnapped Alvarez-Machain from his office and flew him by private plane to El Paso, Texas where he was arrested.

Mexico and the international community fiercely protested the abduction as a gross violation of Mexican sovereignty. The uproar was compounded by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1992 decision in the case that held that Alvarez-Machain could be tried in the United States for violations of U.S. criminal law even though his forcible abduction was "probably" in violation of principles of international law. (In the end, Alvarez-Machain was tried and aqcuitted).

As a result of the Alvarez-Machain incident, extradition relations between Mexico and the United States suffered a serious setback. At any given time, there are hundreds of Mexican nationals wanted for serious crimes in the United States that remain at large in Mexico.

Over the years, Mexico has also continued to arrest and imprison American bounty hunters that are caught in the act. Some articles state that there are currently between 100 and 200 American bounty hunters serving sentences in Mexican prisons.

Dog walked right into the middle of this international controversy in June 2003 when he captured Andrew Luster, a convicted fugitive rapist. There is evidence that Dog tried to conduct the capture in compliance with Mexican law. Some articles state that Dog had a Mexican police officer accompany him during the capture pursuant to the FBI's advice. What is undisputed is that Dog fled Mexico before his court date. Some reports say that the Mexican judge told Dog that he could not be extradited for a misdemeanor. Some reports say that Dog received "flawed legal advice" from his attorneys who told him that he would never be extradited if he fled.

So, why does Mexico want Dog so badly? As Mexican prosecutor Marco Roberto Juarez stated shortly after Dog's arrest in 2003, "A foreigner cannot come here and assume the functions of police and detain people." According to Juarez, Dog should have notified the Mexican police and let them make the arrest.

Coming soon: I've done a lot of research to try to analyze the legal and political hurdles that Dog will be facing in the coming months and am working on coming up with the best defenses to each of these issues. I plan to update this site every couple days with new posts that share the results of my research and suggest possible legal and political strategies. I plan to write a post on the pros and cons of extradition vs. bounty hunting (since this debate is at the center of the controversy in which Dog is now immersed); a post that explains the legal process that Dog is undergoing; if the government's extradition brief becomes publicly available, I will review it and try to offer legal arguments to oppose it; etc. If there are specific topics or issues that readers would like me to research and discuss, please leave me a comment or send me an email. (My email is on my profile page.)

Free The Chapmans!!


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