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A Question of Jurisdiction

Copyright © 2002 by David E. Ross

Can a criminal suspect be extradited to stand trial in a nation where the crime did not occur? No, I am not discussing war crimes or "crimes against humanity". I am discussing the kinds of crimes that over-populate our prisons.

Consider the following situation:

Le Monde (a major French newspaper) assigns Jacques Belmont (a reporter) to cover Los Angeles. (While sometimes derided as a low-class city with no real culture, Los Angeles is the center of a cosmopolitan, polyglot region with a population in excess of 10,000,000. Fads starting there quickly become world-wide trends before anyone can recognize their origin. In any case, news does happen in Los Angeles.)

Belmont decides one weekend to explore his new environment. Dressing casually, he takes a tour, using a bicycle to cover more territory than he could walking while covering it more slowly than by driving. Unfortunately, Belmont wanders into a neighborhood that the natives consider less than safe. Belmont is spotted by a member of the Crips (a street gang known for drug-dealing and drive-by shooting). The reporterís shirt (brought from France) happens to be the same color that the Bloods (a rival street gang) use for their identification. Bang! Belmont is shot dead.

However, an actual member of the Bloods was lurking unseen at the site. Realizing that Belmont was not a gang member, the Bloods member anonymously tips the police. The police arrest someone suspected of being the Crips shooter, a 19 year-old man who was born and always lived within four miles of the shooting scene. The Consul-General of France in Los Angeles demands that the suspect — a U.S. citizen — be immediately extradited to France to stand trial there for murdering a French citizen.

While this is a hypothetical situation, foreign visitors do indeed become victims of crimes in the U.S. Thus, I ask:

Now consider what really happened:

Reporter Daniel Pearl was assigned by the Wall Street Journal to Pakistan, where he was kidnapped and then murdered. The U.S. government wants to extradite the Pakistani suspects to stand trial in the U.S.

10 March 2002


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