U.S., Mexico should resolve dispute about extradition
Bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman has won a court ruling that, if upheld, will prevent him from being extradited to Mexico.
A Mexican judge has dropped charges against Hawaii bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman
, ruling that authorities waited too long in seeking his extradition from the United States. Such a ruling, if upheld on appeal, would settle a controversial dispute and should prod the two countries to resolve issues that arose from the case.
Chapman, son Leland and associate Timothy Chapman captured convicted rapist and Max Factor cosmetics heir Andrew Luster along Mexico's Pacific coast in June 2003. They were arrested by Mexican authorities at a roadblock and charged with deprivation of liberty, akin to kidnapping without demanding a ransom. They contend they were in the process of taking Luster to a police station.
The Chapmans returned to Hawaii but were arrested last September for extradition to Mexico. Luster was returned to the United States by authorities and is now serving a 124-year prison term in California.
Aside from the factual issues, the case rekindled anger in Mexico about a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed "forcible abductions" across the countries' border to bring runaway defendants to justice. Then-President George H.W. Bush quickly assured the Mexican president that his administration would "neither conduct nor condone" such transborder abductions in the future.
James Baker, Bush's secretary of state, and his Mexican counterpart agreed soon afterward that transborder abductions by bounty hunters would be considered extraditable offenses. Two years later, the two countries agreed on a treaty provision that made such abductions by federal, state or local officials or by civilians "acting under the direction" of government officials to be extraditable.
Not only did the treaty fail to cover bounty hunters, it was not sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Bounty hunting remains legal in the United States but illegal south of the border.
In a civil case three years ago, the U.S. high court held that "a single illegal detention" in Mexico followed by the prompt handing over of a person to authorities to stand trial in the United States "violates no norm of customary international law." The court rejected the fugitive's claim to compensation for the abduction, although he was acquitted in criminal court.
This week's Mexican court ruling that the extradition would violate the statute of limitations, if it survives appeal, should end the Chapman case. The two governments should resolve the issue of transborder captures of fugitives with amendments to their 1978 extradition treaty to prevent future conflicts.
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