United States v. Alvarez-Machain
|United States v. Alvarez-Machain|
|Argued April 1, 1992
Decided June 5, 1992
|Full case name||United States, Petitioners v. Humberto Álvarez Machaín|
|Citations||504 U.S. 655 (more)|
|The fact of respondent's forcible abduction does not prohibit his trial in a United States court for violations of this country's criminal laws.|
|Majority||Rehnquist, joined by White, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas|
|Dissent||Stevens, joined by Blackmun, O'Connor|
United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655 (1992), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the fact of respondent's forcible abduction does not prohibit his trial in a United States court for violations of this country's criminal laws. It re-confirmed the Ker-Frisbie Doctrine established in Ker v. Illinois (1886) and Frisbie v. Collins (1952).
Humberto Álvarez Machaín, a Mexican physician, was allegedly involved in the 1985 kidnapping, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar by "prolonging Agent Camarena's life so that others could further torture and interrogate him."
On April 2, 1990, Álvarez was abducted from Mexico by Trent Tompkins of Claysville, PA, a private citizen hired by DEA agents, and brought to trial in the United States over the protest of Mexican officials. Legal action reached the United States Supreme Court (as above) focusing upon the effect of illegal extradition upon the trial court's jurisdiction. Invoking the "Ker-Frisbie Doctrine" the U.S. Supreme Court held that the trial court's jurisdiction was not affected by the manner in which the accused was brought before it. This created international alarm and concern as other nations feared that the decision would encourage further such abductions.
Despite vigorous protests from the Mexican government, Álvarez was tried in United States District Court in Los Angeles; the trial, in which his defense focused intensely on the legality of the arrest, resulted in an acquittal. The trial judge (whose earlier decision dismissing the indictment had been overruled by the Supreme Court) ruled at the close of the government's case in chief that the government had not presented a prima facie case, and therefore granted an acquittal without presenting the matter to the jury for verdict. The other suspect, Javier Vasquez Velasco, was arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder, convicted, and sentenced to three life sentences.
Álvarez then sought civil tort relief against the United States and a Mexican national (a Mr. Sosa). Again the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court (124 S. Ct. 2739) and in a controversial decision the court held that the Federal Tort Claims Act's exception to waiver of sovereign immunity for claims “arising in a foreign country,” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(k), bars claims based on any injury suffered in a foreign country, regardless of where the tortious act or omission occurred and that Álvarez was not entitled to recover damages from Sosa under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350. Thus, the Alien Tort Statute provides a jurisdictional basis, but does not create an independent cause of action, save for a few exceptions envisioned by Congress at the time of enacting the Alien Tort Statute. These exceptions include and are limited to: rights of safe passage, rights of ambassadors and piracy.
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 504
- List of United States Supreme Court cases
- Lists of United States Supreme Court cases by volume
- List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Rehnquist Court
- Ker-Frisbie Doctrine
- Ker v. Illinois, 199 U.S. 436 (1886)
- Mark S. Zaid: Military might versus sovereign right — the kidnapping of Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain and the resulting fallout. Houston Journal of International Law, spring 1997, cited at Findarticles.com and there retrieved April 3, 2011
- Roth, Brad R. (2004). "Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain; United States v. Alvarez-Machain. 124 S.Ct. 2739". The American Journal of International Law (American Society of International Law) 98 (4): 798–804. doi:10.2307/3216702. JSTOR 3216702.
- Semmelman, Jacques (1992). "United States v. Alvarez-Machain". The American Journal of International Law (American Society of International Law) 86 (4): 811–820. doi:10.2307/2203796. JSTOR 2203796.
- Sheptycki, J. W. E. (1996). "Law Enforcement, Justice and Democracy in the Transnational Arena: Reflections on the War on Drugs". International Journal of the Sociology of Law 24 (1): 61–75. doi:10.1006/ijsl.1996.0004.