Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mexican Supreme Court rejects appeal of co-defendant in U.S. agent's 1985 murder case

Arrested in Puerto Vallarta in 1985, he'll remain in prison for another decade or more

Guadalajara -
In its second ruling this month on legal issues arising from the murder of a Drug Enforcement Agent in Guadalajara 29 years ago, the Supreme Judicial Court of Mexico today rejected an appeal filed by one of several perpetrators who claimed that he was tried in the wrong court.

DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar was executed in February 1985 on the orders of former Guadalajara Cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero. On August 8 a federal appeals court in Jalisco freed Caro Quintero, 70, on technical grounds after he had served 28 years of a 40 year sentence. He walked out of prison at 1:30 a.m. the following day, and no one has seen him since. The death house on Lope de Vega.

On Nov. 6 the Supreme Court reversed the lower tribunal's ruling and ordered Caro Quintero back into custody. Both Mexico and the U.S. have issued arrest warrants for him, and the Justice Dept. plans to seek his extradition if he is captured. Mexican Supreme Court overturns release of Guadalajara drug lord. Caro Quintero's release infuriated American officials and embarrassed the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, whose attorney general called the lower court decision "absurd and illogical." Sen. McCain demands answers on release of former Guadalajara Cartel boss.

Today a panel of Supreme Court judicial ministers rejected an almost identical appeal filed by Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, a co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel whose drug trafficking history dates to the 1970s. Now 71, Fonseca Carrillo was arrested in Puerto Vallarta by Mexican soldiers in April 1985, two months after agent Camarena was murdered. But unlike Caro Quintero, who may never be taken back into custody, Fonseca Carrillo remained in prison while his case was carried to the high tribunal. Mexican prosecutors sought and obtained an order from Supreme Court ministers in August, directing the lower court not to release Fonseca Carrillo, as it did Caro Quintero, until they reviewed the issues.

In their ruling today the ministers remanded the case to the Jalisco appellate court and ordered the lower tribunal to affirm Fonseca Carrillo's conviction, applying the same criteria the Supreme Court relied upon earlier this month in Caro Quintero's appeal. In that decision the judges found that Enrique Camarena was an "internationally protected person" who enjoyed diplomatic privileges during his work in Mexico. The Supreme Court thus concluded his murder case could be prosecuted in federal court. Both Caro Quintero and Fonseca Carrillo had argued agent Camarena was not an accredited member of the U.S. delegation to Mexico when he was killed, that he had no more legal entitlements than any other private citizen and that as a result they could be tried for the offense only in a state court.

As in its earlier ruling the vote today was 4-1, with the lone dissenter agreeing with Fonseca Carrillo's contention that a federal court lacked jurisdiction to try his case.

Like Caro Quintero, Fonseca Carrillo was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of Camarena and a Mexican government pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, who was a regular DEA informer. He will now have to serve the balance of his prison term.

The Guadalajara Cartel, once a huge exporter of marijuana to the United States and a contract carrier for Colombian drug lords who hired it to smuggle cocaine into U.S. territory in return for a large portion of the profits, ceased to exist many years ago. Its surviving membership merged into other organized crime groups.

On Nov. 5 the U.S. State Dept. announced it was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero. But there have been no reported sightings since he was released from a maximum security Jalisco prison almost four months ago. Caro Quintero faces drug trafficking charges in a U.S. federal court, and American prosecutors want to try him for Camarena's murder as well. His attorneys contend a retrial for the homicide would be legally barred in both countries.

Enrique Camarena was one of a very few American law enforcement agents who have been murdered in Mexican drug war incidents. But another case occurred in February 2011. Los Zeta gunman pleads guilty to execution of U.S. ICE agent.

Dec. 16 - Interpol asks for help in locating Rafael Caro Quintero

Dec. 5 - U.N. selects Mexico's Supreme Court for prestigious Defense of Human Rights Award
Dec. 3 - Caro Quintero writes Enrique Peña Nieto, asking for protection from U.S. "vengeance"
Feb. 14 - Family of ICE agent murdered by Los Zetas in Mexico sues U.S. government

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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