International House of Dan: Mexico vs. "Dog The Bounty Hunter", Part I

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mexico vs. "Dog The Bounty Hunter", Part I

While on my recent fact-finding mission to Waikiki (I have found that my parents are great!) I came across the news that Hawai'i resident and A&E mainstay "Dog the Bounty Hunter" was detained by federal agents yesterday pending a hearing over his possible extradition to Mexico to face kidnapping charges.

The case arises out of Duane "Dog" Chapman's 2003 detention of "Max Factor heir"* and convicted rapist Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In October of 2002, Luster was on trial in California on over 85 counts arising from the drugging and rape of 3 women. He was released during trial on a $1 million bond and fled the state in January of 2003, during the proceedings against him. Luster was later convicted in absentia and sentenced to 124 years in prison. The following Summer, Chapman tracked Luster to Puerto Vallarta and was himself arrested by Mexican authorities who were summoned by bystanders while he was detaining Luster.

Bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, so Chapman's successful attempt to deliver Luster to U.S. federal authorities resulted in charges of criminal association and deprivation of liberty filed by Judge Jose de Jesus Pineda against Chapman and his associates. Chapman was eventually released from jail on $1,300 bail, but ordered to check in with Mexican authorities on Mondays. Chapman and his crew pledged to cooperate with local proceedings, but they returned to the U.S. following their release and have apparently remained here since. Judge Pineda's demand for an explanation resulted in the revocation of Chapman's bail, and the Mexican government immediately sought his extradition back to Mexico.

Why am I wasting my time writing about this curious but otherwise celebrity-related case? Because it provides a unique opportunity to discuss two topics in international criminal law and procedure: extradition, and trial in absentia. Over the next few days I will further examine these two issues and attempt to develop them within the context of the Chapman-Luster case, as well as within the broader field of U.S.-Mexico relations.

Cross-border extrajudicial kidnapping is certainly nothing new to our Mexico policy (see U.S. v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655 (1992) - the SCOTUS basically ruled that since the extradition treaty does not prohibit extrajudicial kidnapping, the DEA could pay Mexican nationals to kidnap the suspect and fly him to Texas for arrest), and the Chapman-Luster case involves so many sides of the same coin that it should be a good tool for the study of these issues (it certainly feels a lot like a "Jessup" fact pattern!**).

* Luster is the great-grandson of Max Factor, creator of the... Max Factor cosmetics line. While headlines have consistently referred to Luster as "cosmetics heir" and "Max Factor heir" while referencing his "life of ease", I am not sure that beyond a trust fund created by his grandmother for his benefit he is actually an "heir" of Factor's fortune.

** Participants in the Jessup competition have to defend the actions of one side while attacking the actions of another, but the fact pattern they are presented with is such that the actions of each side are frustratingly similar: for example, arguing that Chapman should not be forced to return to Mexico for violating his bond but that Luster should have to return to the U.S. for violating his.



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