On the morning of April 29, 2002, Dep. David March of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department pulled over a driver for a minor traffic violation on the streets of Irwindale, Calif. Minutes later, he was dead.
Police accounts of the events of that morning say that as March approached the subject vehicle, the driver met him half way, pulled a handgun, and fired. The bullet entered the side of March's chest where he had no protection from his vest. He went down. The shooter then stood over him and fired a another round at pointblank range into March's head, got back in his car, and fled. March was 33 years old.
The district attorney, the sheriff, and the rank and file officers of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department all believe that the shooter was Armando Garcia. A warrant has been issued for his arrest. They know exactly where he is.
And they can't touch him. Armando Garcia, 25 at the time of the slaying, was illegally in the United States. When the heat came down, he made a run for the border, and he made it. He walks free and happy in Mexico.
Prior to 2001, people who ran down to Mexico to avoid U.S. prosecution had to hide. Then the Mexican Supreme Court handed down a ruling that forbade extradition of anyone to the United States in cases that could result in the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ever since, people wanted for murder in the United States can head down to Mexico and live in the open without fear of U.S. Marshals or federales slapping cuffs on them, hauling them into extradition hearings, and shipping them back to El Norte.
Basically what has happened here is that the justices of the Supreme Court of Mexico have given "Get Out of Jail Free" cards to hundreds of Mexican citizens and even non-Mexicans who are wanted for murders in the United States. Now, why do you think the Mexican justices would do such a thing? Could it have something to do with the financial influence of narco traffickers who would like to avoid prosecution for crimes in the United States?
Maybe. But officially the Mexican Supreme Court argues that the death penalty and life without parole violate the Mexican constitution's proscription against "cruel and unusual" punishment.
There's only one problem with that argument. They're talking about punishment for crimes committed in the United States of America. And the effect is to skirt American justice. The Mexican government is saying, "We don't like your laws, and they don't apply to anyone who makes it across the border." However, Mexico will consider extradition if the prosecutors take the death penalty and life without parole off the table. And Mexico also offers to try the accused under Mexican law. However, in such cases, the penalties handed down have amounted to less than slaps on the wrist, and once this option has been exercised, the suspect cannot be extradited.
Mexico is protecting its citizens from U.S. law. But what is the United States doing to protect its citizens from killers who make a beeline to Mexico before their victims are even cold? Not much.
Representatives, Senators, and President Bush are largely silent on this issue for fear of offending large Mexican-American constituencies or screwing up NAFTA or fear of Vicente Fox's response, or something incomprehensible to anyone other than a politician.
That leaves grieving survivors like Dep. David March's widow, Theresa, with no justice and no peace. But Theresa March is striking back. She has launched a Website that tells the story of David March's murder and urges visitors to write their representatives, their senators, the attorney general, and the presidents of the United States and Mexico to demand the extradition of Armando Garcia.
Every reader of this magazine should call up that Website, get the addresses, and put pen to paper. Your brother has been murdered, justice has been denied, and it is time for you to take action.