Alleged Killer's Trail Goes Cold

May 17 2005, 2:08 PM

Authorities believe that Raul Garcia-Gomez, the alleged killer of Denver Police Detective Don Young has fled to Mexico. The Denver Post reports the trail has grown cold. Two California Congressmen, believing that it would be easier to extradite a suspect in a cop-killing case if the charge was a federal one, have introduced a bill in Congress to make it a federal crime to kill a peace officer and flee the country. I don't think this bill will make it any easier to extradite a suspect, particularly one who flees to Mexico. Killing a peace officer under federal law, as in many states, is a death-penalty eligible offense.

Mexico refuses to extradite criminal suspects to the United States when the suspects could face the death penalty or life imprisonment, saying its Supreme Court has ruled that such sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

In fact, it won't make it easier to extradite from any country that still employs the death penalty. France, for example, refused to turn over Ira Einhorn until the U.S. agreed not to seek his execution.

Einhorn was released to U.S. authorities after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, was given sufficient guarantees by Pennsylvania authorities that he would get a new trial and not face the death penalty.

The proposed California bill would just create another obstacle to extradition, not make it easier. In addition, state prosecutors and police are more experienced in investigating and prosecuting murder cases. In the case of Raul Garcia-Gomez, if he has fled to Mexico, there appears to be two options. Denver can agree to forego seeking the death penalty and request his extradition to the U.S. for trial. Or, under Mexican law, it can request a trial in federal court in Mexico. If convicted, Garcia-Gomez would serve his time in a Mexican jail. But the U.S. would not have control over when he would be released. In all events, it appears that Mr. Garcia-Gomez has avoided execution. For those of us who oppose the death penalty, this is a good thing. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is a preferable option. By committing to this now, Denver will have a greater chance of obtaining Mexico's cooperation in his capture and extradition.