Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Extradition Law - Criminal Defendants Extradited outside of Treaties Lack Standing to Assert Rule of Specialty - United States V. Valencia-Trujillo

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Extradition Law - Criminal Defendants Extradited outside of Treaties Lack Standing to Assert Rule of Specialty - United States V. Valencia-Trujillo

Article excerpt

International law does not impose a duty on nations to extradite criminals, but the United States, along with most other countries, has imposed such an obligation through individually-negotiated bilateral treaties. (1) In an effort to maintain cooperation and good faith between the parties of extradition treaties, courts began recognizing the "rule of specialty," which prohibits the requesting state from prosecuting criminal defendants for charges not contained in the request for extradition. (2) In United States v. Valencia-Trujillo, (3) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit considered whether a criminal defendant extradited from Colombia to the United States could assert the rule of specialty to enforce assurances made by the U.S. government in order to secure extradition. (4) The court held that the defendant lacked standing to assert the rule because he was not extradited pursuant to a treaty. (5)

In 2002, a U.S. grand jury indicted Colombian citizen Joaquin Mario Valencia-Trujillo for running an international, multi-million dollar drug smuggling and money laundering enterprise. (6) The American Embassy sent a diplomatic note to Colombia that requested Valencia-Trujillo's extradition. (7) The note invoked applicable provisions of the Constitution of Colombia, Colombia's Criminal Procedure Code, and principles of international law. (8) Colombia authorized Valencia-Trujillo's extradition for the charges set forth in the indictment, but expressly limited this authorization to acts committed after December 17, 199). (9)

Before trial, Valencia-Trujillo filed a motion to enforce the rule of specialty, requesting that all references to events occurring before December (17), 1997 be excluded from the government's evidence and redacted from the indictment. (10) The court granted the motion in part, redacting the first twenty-six predicate acts of the continuing criminal enterprise charge and taking certain measures to prevent the jury from improperly considering evidence pre- December 1997. (11) The district court refused, however, to remove allegations of pre-December 1997 conduct regarding the conspiracy charges, reasoning that the duration of a conspiracy is not an essential element of the crime, unlike a continuing criminal enterprise charge. (12) The jury convicted Valencia-Trujillo on all four counts of the indictment and sentenced him to (480) months imprisonment. (13) Valencia-Trujillo appealed his conviction, alleging that the district court violated the rule of specialty by prosecuting him for offenses beyond those authorized by Colombia in his extradition documents. (14) The Eleventh Circuit held that Valencia-Trujillo did not have standing to assert the rule of specialty because he was not extradited under the U.S.-Colombia Treaty. (15)

If an extradition treaty exists between the United States and a surrendering state, a criminal defendant is customarily extradited in accordance with the conditions set forth in the treaty. (16) If a treaty is unavailable or impractical, however, the United States has used alternate methods of informal rendition to secure the surrender of foreign fugitives. (17) Additionally, nations may extradite outside of an existing treaty by expressly waiving the treaty's formalities. (18) Courts consider the method used to bring the criminal defendant to the United States in determining whether the individual has standing to assert the rule of specialty. (19)

The rule of specialty, addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time in United States v. Rauscher, (20) provides that a criminal defendant extradited from one country to another may only be tried for the offenses for which he was surrendered. (21) The same day that it handed down Rauscher, the Supreme Court held, in Ker v. Illinois, (22) that criminal defendants brought to the United States outside of formal extradition proceedings were not entitled to the protections of an existing extradition treaty. …

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