Washington Court Considers the Prejudicial Nature of the Legal Term “Extradition”

During Vincente Ruiz’s trial in Pasco, Washington, a retired Pasco detective testified Tuesday about the suspect’s extradition from Mexico. Ruiz’s lawyers are calling for an immediate end to the murder trial due to the highly prejudicial connotation jurors associate with the term “extradition.”

Henry Montelongo explained to jurors that in June 2007 he went with a Pasco police detective and an FBI agent to meet with other FBI and customs officials at the Los Angeles International Airport.

On Tuesday, when asked about the purpose for that meeting, Montelongo replied that the defendant had been apprehended, was in Mexican custody, and arrangements to extradite him back to the United States had been made.

Defense lawyer Kevin Holt immediately objected to the statement and, once the jury was taken out of the courtroom, asked for a mistrial.

Holt argued that use of the word extradition is highly prejudicial, and that a person who chooses to fight their extradition is exercising their constitutional right.

Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny contends that Montelongo said nothing about the legal process or whether Ruiz resisted extradition, and therefore the term “extradition” is not highly prejudicial.

Franklin County Judge Cameron Mitchell refused to declare a mistrial, but stopped court about 45 minutes early so defense attorneys could research case law and constitutional rights.

He scheduled an hour this morning so attorneys can further argue the issue before the trial starts again. The topic of Ruiz’s return from his native country has been discussed at length during court hearings in the last seven weeks.

Ruiz fought his extradition and sat in a Mexican prison for nearly nine months before being returned to the US to face five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Ruiz, 45, is accused of helping his cousin gun down six men inside the garage on Oct. 13, 1987.

The extradition treaty between the U.S. and Mexico permits extradition only when the evidence is sufficient, according to the laws of the requested party, either to justify the committal for trial of the person sought if the offense of which he has been accused had been committed in that place, or to prove that he is the person convicted by the courts of the requesting party.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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