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Fugitives flout law

By Bob Baker, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League

-Bush lets Mexico harbor suspects in worst U.S. crimes

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. That country is Mexico. In the past decade, any killers who make it across the border assure themselves they will not face the criminal-justice system in the United States.

If Raul Garcia-Gomez, who might be in Los Angeles and is suspected in the shooting death of Denver police Detective Donnie Young and the wounding of Detective Jack Bishop, makes his way to Mexico, he is "home free."

Mexico has consistently refused to extradite murderers if they face the death penalty. A 2001 Mexican Supreme Court decision also forbade the Mexican government to extradite any person, whether or not a Mexican citizen, if that person faces a sentence that carries the possibility of life imprisonment, saying that would violate the Mexican Constitution and was "cruel and unusual punishment."

In many states, where all murders carry the possibility of life imprisonment, the Mexican court’s ruling makes extradition impossible. In short, the thoroughly corrupt Mexican judicial system has decided that the United States cannot prosecute even U.S. citizens if they make it to Mexico.

Since Oct. 2, 2001, Mexico has repeatedly refused to return suspects to the United States for prosecution. As of last year, the Justice Department had more than 80 open extradition cases for fugitives in Mexico.

Those fugitives include cop killers. Armando Garcia, a Mexican national who was illegally in California, allegedly shot to death Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy David March during a traffic stop in 2002. Garcia has never been caught, but is known to be in Mexico.

The absurdity doesn’t stop there. 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 President George W. Bush, 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 these jurisdictions, then they have to face the penalty the public deems appropriate.

Along with other law enforcement organizations, the National Association of Attorneys General and the Los Angeles Police Protective League 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.

The Bush administration’s failure to aggressively intervene and seek extradition has in essence blessed the “murderer paradise” created by Mexico. The U.S. 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.

Action must be taken now. Imagine the furor in the nation’s capital if the alleged Washington snipers, Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, had fled to Mexico after being identified. Mexico could have refused to return them until Maryland, Virginia and Alabama changed their laws. Does anyone believe the attorney general or the secretary of state would have taken a pass on that problem?

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 sit by silently and 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.

Bob Baker is president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers. The LAPPL can be found on the Web at www.LAPD.com

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