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U.S. battles Mexico in extradition war

David Alvarez September 30, 1997
Web posted at: 8:26 p.m. EDT (0026 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A 30-year-old California ex-con accused of murdering four people, including two little girls, has become the center of an extradition tug of war between the United States and Mexico.

Mexico is refusing to extradite David "Spooky" Alvarez of Los Angeles. Alvarez, currently jailed in Mexico, could face the death penalty in California if convicted of the 1996 slayings.

That punishment, say Mexican officials, is at the heart of the reason he won't be extradited. But history and politics may be tugging on the issue too.

CNN's Jennifer Auther reports
icon 2 min., 23 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Mexico bans the death penalty. In 1978, the United States and Mexico signed an extradition treaty reflecting Mexico's position.

Under the treaty, Mexico can refuse to release any suspect who could face death.

But observers say that historically, the United States has gone out of its way to get alleged offenders out of Mexico and before U.S. courts.

"Procuring, kidnapping individuals in Mexico to have them brought before U.S. courts is not an unheard of thing," says Edwin Smith, a professor of law and international relations at the University of Southern California.

Mexican national recently executed

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The Mexican government has also not looked favorably on the treatment of Mexican nationals by the U.S. justice system. Just this month in Virginia, Mexican national Mario Murphy was executed in a murder-for-hire case. Virginia's governor refused to grant clemency, even after pressure from Mexican authorities.

Thirty-three other Mexican nationals remain on death row in the U.S. One Mexican citizen spent 15 years on death row before a judge recently released him, citing lack of evidence. Mexico's counsel general in Los Angeles, Jose Angel Pescador, says that case in particular is complicating the extradition request for David Alvarez.

Mexico may set Alvarez free

As for Alvarez, Mexican officials say they're just trying to abide by the treaty. They're also saying they may set him free, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti.

"That's not justice! That's not fair!" Garcetti says.

Garcetti explains the extradition
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Pescador states Mexico's position
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Mexico has offered to extradite Alvarez if California waives the death penalty, Garcetti says, but the prosecutor has no intention of doing that.

Garcetti admits U.S. Attorney Janet Reno already asked him to waive the death penalty in an attempt to settle the issue. He is, however, firm: "It's not the right thing to do."

Mexican officials are also firm, and they're insisting Garcetti bend. "It's very important that Mr. Garcetti has a long conversation with Janet Reno," says Pescador.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther contributed to this report.


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