JANUARY 27, 2010
An illegal immigrant drug dealer who fled to his native Mexico after orchestrating the murder of an Iowa teenager is free because his conviction was overturned by an appellate court that ruled he was denied a speedy trial while he was a fugitive from U.S. justice.
The astounding case dates back more than a decade, when the illegal alien (Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez) drug lord ordered the execution-style murder of a 15-year-old northwest Iowa boy over a drug debt. The teen, rumored to be a police informant, was kidnapped and severely beaten before getting shot.
Castillo-Alvarez evaded U.S. authorities for a decade, hiding out in his Mexican hometown until spring of 2008 when he was finally extradited, tried and convicted of kidnapping, conspiracy and second-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to five decades in prison for the atrocious crime, which was not his first.
Incredibly, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the conviction last September, ruling that the illegal immigrant murderer was not granted a speedy trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "The county attorney was well aware that defendant was a citizen of Mexico and that he was located there," the court wrote in its decision. The fact that the defendant went to Mexico in 1997 “does not shed light on why there was delay" between the time trial information was filed and the time he was arrested, the ruling says.
Announcing it would appeal to Iowa’s Supreme Court, the state’s Attorney General countered that the delay was attributable to Castillo’s flight from the United States to avoid prosecution. Furthermore, the Attorney General pointed out, prosecutors had no control over Mexico’s slow extradition process. Throughout the procedure, U.S. officials maintained regular contacts with Mexican authorities but had no jurisdiction to do more to ensure prompt location of the defendant and execution of the outstanding arrest warrant, the Attorney General said.
This week Iowa’s Supreme Court refused to review the overturned conviction, which essentially dismisses the case against the illegal alien murderer. Double jeopardy prohibits Castillo-Alvarez from being retried. The demoralized Clay County prosecutor said: “It is disappointing that the justices in Des Moines don’t understand and appreciate the difficulties in pursuing a murderer who flees to his home country of Mexico to avoid prosecution. It is also discouraging that those same justices didn’t hold Castillo responsible for his own conduct in fleeing the state to avoid prosecution."
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