Extradition Lawyers Association

Santos (9 March 2015)

Jose Luis Munoz Santos v. Linda R. Thomas, No. 12-56506, 2015 WL 1004 (9th Cir.)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s ruling certifying extradition to Mexico, holding that witness recantations, on the basis that their earlier statements were obtained by torture, were not admissible because considering such statements would require the court to weigh conflicting evidence and make credibility determinations. The Mexican government provided statements from five witnesses implicating Jose Luis Munoz (“Munoz”) in the alleged kidnapping for ransom of Dignora Hermosillo Garcia (“Hermosillo”) and her two daughters on August 18th, 2005. According to Hermosillo, on the evening of the alleged kidnapping, she and her two young daughters were abducted from their home by a masked man whom she later identified to be Fausto Librado Rosas Alfaro (“Rosas”). Based on the statements of Hermosillo, Rosas, and Hurtado, among others, the extradition court found that there was probable cause to believe that Munoz was guilty of the alleged kidnapping and accordingly certified extradition to Mexico. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that witness recantations, offered on the basis that earlier statements were obtained by torture, were inadmissible. Determining whether the earlier statements were obtained by torture and whether to accept the recantations would have required the court to weigh contradictory evidence and make credibility determinations, an exercise which falls outside of the purview of the extradition court. Although a person facing extradition may present evidence that “explains away or completely obliterates probable cause,” evidence “that merely controverts the existence of probable cause, or raises a defense, is not admissible.” Mainero v. Gregg, 164 F.3d 1199, 1207 n.7 (9th Cir. 1999). Although, as the appellate opinion acknowledged, extradition courts have at times elected not to rely on evidence allegedly obtained by torture, or have considered allegations of torture but found them to be unreliable, the admission of evidence submitted by the fugitive remains at the discretion of the extradition court and was properly excluded here to avoid a mini-trial on whether the initial statements of Rosas and Hurtado were procured by torture