The Prosecutor, September-October 2012, Volume 42, No. 5

An update on the pursuit of fugitives who flee into Mexico

While some new procedures are now required, the Mexican government has never been more willing to help capture and return fugitives hiding in their country back to the U.S. for prosecution.

When their 4-year-old son joined them in bed, Jesus Terrazas told his wife that he was going to sleep in their daughter’s room. Their daughter was 13 years old at the time. Recently, Terrazas’s wife had suspected that he was using drugs so, when he left his bed that night she thought he might be going to his daughter’s room to take drugs. She followed him into her daughter’s bedroom and turned on the light: She saw Terrazas standing next to the bed in his boxer shorts. Their daughter was lying on the bed, crying, with her legs facing her father. His wife then saw that Terrazas had an erection. Furious at what she saw, the police were immediately called and Terrazas was arrested. The investigation quickly revealed that this was not the first time Terrazas had abused his daughter. He was appointed a lawyer, and he rejected a plea offer. He was scheduled to go to trial on April 27, 2007. On that date Terrazas failed to appear in court, and family members feared that he had fled to Mexico. Thus began the hunt and pursuit of Jesus Terrazas in Mexico.

In El Paso, the international bridges to Mexico are literally blocks away from some neighborhoods, and the belief that freedom is just beyond those borders is too great a temptation for many criminals. Recently the suspect in a triple homicide, who had fled from El Paso to Mexico after the killings, walked across the bridge from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and turned himself in to startled U.S. Custom officers less than a week after the crime.
    This conscientious act, however, is extremely rare. More commonly fugitives have to be rigorously pursued deep into Mexico. To track down those fugitives, the El Paso County District Attorney, Jaime Esparza, created the Foreign Prosecution Unit. In the eight years of its existence, the unit has established close working ties with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of International Affairs (OIA), U.S. Marshals Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); it has also established a solid working relationship with Mexican prosecutors in the various PGR (the Mexican equivalent of the Attorney General) offices throughout the country and in Mexico City, and with the Mexican Consulate’s Office in El Paso. The good news is that any DA’s office can also look to any of these agencies for help in locating, arresting, and extraditing fugitives who are hiding in Mexico.

Extradition treaty with Mexico
In May 1978, the United States signed an extradition treaty with Mexico, which went into effect on January 25, 1980.1 The treaty’s appendix lists the extraditable offenses; in addition, Article 2 of the treaty states that willful crimes that fall within any of the clauses of the crimes listed in the appendix are also extraditable. An intentional crime punishable by at least one year in jail may also be extraditable.
    Article 3 of the treaty sets out the evidence required to successfully obtain an extradition. This article states that the extradition shall be granted only if the evidence is sufficient, according to the laws of the requested party, for committing the defendant to trial. It has been my experience, however, that the case must be fairly strong. Even though many weak cases have been successfully tried, for extradition purposes, a weak case may not pass the scrutiny of the Department of Justice. The treaty also sets out the required documents, and those can be found in Article 10. Article 10 also sets out extradition procedures.
    In short, the treaty is composed of 23 Articles and an Appendix and should be read carefully before an extradition is pursued. Since the treaty’s inception, Mexico has been an excellent partner in the pursuit of fugitives hiding within its borders.

First things first
To pursue an extradition from Mexico, one must first have an address for the fugitive in Mexico. This may seem like an odd requirement, but the