United States v. Alvarez-Machain

504 U.S. 655, 112 S. Ct. 2188 (1992)



The power of a court to try a person for crime is not impaired by the fact that he had been brought within the court's jurisdiction by reason of a "forcible abduction." Due process of law is satisfied when one present in court is convicted of crime after having been fairly apprized of the charges against him and after a fair trial in accordance with constitutional procedural safeguards. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a court to permit a guilty person rightfully convicted to escape justice because he was brought to trial against his will.


Respondent, Humberto Alvarez-Machain, is a citizen and resident of Mexico. He was indicted for participating in the kidnap and murder of United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent Enrique Camarena-Salazar and a Mexican pilot working with Camarena, Alfredo Zavala-Avelar. The DEA believed that respondent, a medical doctor, participated in the murder by prolonging Agent Camarena's life so that others could further torture and interrogate him. Respondent moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming that his abduction constituted outrageous governmental conduct, and that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to try him because he was abducted in violation of the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico. The District Court rejected the outrageous governmental conduct claim. However, after concluding that DEA agents were responsible for the abduction, the District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground that it violated the Extradition Treaty between the United States and Mexico and ordered respondent's repatriation. The court of appeals affirmed. 


Can a criminal defendant use an extradition as a defense to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?




The Court held that the fact of Alvarez-Machain's forcible abduction from a nation with which the U.S. has an extradition treaty does not prohibit his trial in a United States court for violations of the criminal laws in the U.S. The Court construed the treaty and concluded that there were no express provisions concerning obligations to refrain from forcible abductions, or the consequences under the treaty if such abduction occurred. The Court concluded that the language of the treaty, in the context of its history, did not support the finding that the treaty prohibited abductions outside of its terms. Nor did the Court find that the treaty should be interpreted so as to include an implied term prohibiting prosecution, where a defendant's presence was obtained by means other than those established by the treaty. The Court noted that the violation of any principle of international law did not constitute a violation of the treaty. The Court thus refused to imply in the treaty a term prohibiting international abductions.

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