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Attorney General Salazar Urges Priority Of Murder Fugitive Prosecutions By Mexican Authorities, And Appoints Investigator To Work On Colorado Cases

Attorney General Ken Salazar is requesting the assistance of Attorney General Marcial Rafael Macedo De La Concha of Mexico in prioritizing the prosecution of five Colorado fugitive murder cases. The alleged murderers fled to Mexico, where they are believed to be residing.

Salazar's request is contained in a letter to the Mexican attorney general. The letter is a follow-up to a recent meeting in Mexico City with officials representing the U. S. State Department, including the U. S. Ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow, U. S. Department of Justice, Mexico Attorney General's Office, and representatives of six states with active "Article IV" prosecution efforts (AZ, CA, CO, NM, OR, TX). Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Don Quick and Governor Owen's extradition director Mark Noel attended the conference on behalf of Colorado. As a result of that meeting, Ambassador Davidow presented to Mexican authorities the priority lists of all six states, including the five Colorado priority cases.

"No one should be able to escape from justice simply by skipping over the border to Mexico," Attorney General Salazar reiterated. "While we would always prefer that a criminal suspect be tried in Colorado if the crime is committed here, he reality is that this is not always a viable option when a Mexican national is a suspect and has fled to Mexico. Prosecution of such suspects in Mexico is the only other option available in trying to bring that suspect to justice. At the very least, we owe it to victims' families to try this approach."

This Spring the Colorado General Assembly approved Salazar's request to hire an investigator fluent in Spanish to spearhead statewide efforts and coordination of these prosecutions with Mexican authorities. The investigator is Luz Maria Shearer of Brighton, Colorado. Shearer has over thirty years of experience as a police officer in California and Colorado, and is fluent in Spanish.

Approximately 35 of Colorado's 115-plus active warrants for fugitives for Colorado murderers are believed to involve Mexican nationals who have fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. There are two avenues available to States when attempting to prosecute fugitives that have fled to Mexico. First, the state may attempt to extradite the fugitive back to the United States for prosecution. Second, the option is to prosecute the fugitive in Mexico under Article IV of the Mexican Federal Penal Code.

Under a 1987 U. S. - Mexico extradition treaty, neither party is bound to deliver up, or surrender its own nationals, but may do so at their discretion. The extradition option is largely unused because historically the Government of Mexico has been reluctant to extradite Mexican nationals back to the United States except in very rare circumstances. This reluctance involves a number of factors, including Mexico's reluctance to extradite its citizens when the death penalty is a possible sentence. Mexico, like most other countries, does not have the death penalty as a sentence option. Even when U. S. authorities stipulate they will not seek the death penalty, Mexico has been reluctant to grant extradition of its citizens on murder charges.

As an alternative, prosecuting a fugitive found residing in Mexico under that country's penal code has proved to be an attractive and useful tool by other southwest states. California, Arizona, and Texas have developed Article IV prosecution units and expertise within their respective Attorney General offices. Until this year Colorado did not have such a centralize operation. Instead, local prosecutors have been largely left to their own resources and expertise to pursue the arduous and time-consuming Article IV process.

In general, Colorado and the other states of the United States have no legal authority to prosecute crimes outside their borders. Article IV of the Mexican Federal Penal Code, however, provides that Mexico has authority to prosecute crimes committed outside its borders in certain factual situations, namely when the defendant or victim is a Mexican national; the suspect is now located in Mexico; the offense is considered criminal conduct both in Mexico and in the jurisdiction in which it occurred; and the suspect has not already been tried and convicted or acquitted of the crime charged.

Under Article IV, either the U. S. Department of Justice or a State Attorney General must file the case on behalf of a local prosecutor in order to trigger Mexican prosecution. Article IV case preparation and prosecution requirements are very detailed, including the requirement that all case filings and information contained therein must be translated into Spanish.

 
 
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