Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Panel Rejects Torture Claims, Upholds Extradition Order
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a magistrate judge’s ruling in favor of the Mexican government’s request for extradition of a man accused of orchestrating the kidnapping of a woman and her two children from the family home.
Los Angeles –based Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich correctly declined to consider statements offered in opposition to Jose Munoz Santos’ extradition, the panel held. The statements were from witnesses seeking to recant statements offered by the government, which the witnesses claimed were obtained by torture.
Dignora Hermosillo and her children were kidnapped in August 2005 by a masked gunman. According to her witness statement, submitted in support of the extradition request, she caught a glimpse of the gunman’s face as he drove them away in Hermosillo’s car, and later identified him as Fausto Rosas.
Rosas abandoned one child, and later the other, along the way and eventually left Hermosillo tied to a tree. The younger of the two girls was later found dead.
Rosas gave a statement, admitting that he was the gunman and implicating Munoz in the planning of the crime, along with Jesus Hurtado. Hurtado gave a statement admitting that he served as a lookout, and also implicating Munoz.
Another witness statement came from Beningo Andrade, who said that Rosas and Munoz approached them not long before the kidnapping and asked him if he wanted to join in a “job” that would involve asking someone named “Beto” for 2 million pesos. Beto is a common nickname for Roberto, the first name of Hermosillo’s husband.
Wistrich excluded four statements from Hurtado and two from Rosas in which the men claimed that they were tortured into giving their original statements implicating Munoz, and that those statements were false. The men denied their own involvement in the kidnapping, and Hurtado said in one of his statements that he did not know Munoz or Rosas, while Rosas claimed he signed his statement in part due to threats against his family.
The magistrate cited case law holding that recantations of statements made in support of extradition raise complex factual issues that are best resolved in the courts of the receiving country.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow agreed with the magistrate judge, finding probable cause for extradition and rejecting Munoz’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. The assertions of torture, she said, were “inextricably intertwined” with the recantations and thus came within the authority cited by the magistrate judge.
Nguyen, in her opinion for the appellate panel yesterday, also agreed.
Extradition proceedings, she noted, have a limited scope. Once the State Department agrees to the request, all that needs to be shown in court, she explained, is that there is probable cause to believe the accused committed the charged offense in the requesting country.
The judge acknowledged that statements made under torture have been excluded from extradition cases, but found those cases distinguishable.
“[N]one of these cases stands for the proposition that an extradition court must accept as true allegations of torture whenever they are raised, nor do they endorse the weighing of evidence by an extradition court. Rather, these cases reflect the highly fact-intensive nature of these proceedings….Under the appropriate circumstances, an extradition court may exercise its discretion to consider allegations of torture. But in a case like this one, where torture allegations are inextricably intertwined with the witnesses’ recantations, the evidence was properly excluded because its consideration would require a mini-trial on whether the initial statements of Rosas and Hurtado were procured by torture.”
The case is Munoz Santos v. Thomas, 12-56506.
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