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CALIFORNIA

New Law Lets State Supersede Foreign Trials

September 18, 2004|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Fugitives who come back across the border may soon be tried for crimes allegedly committed in California even if they already have been prosecuted for the crimes in another country.

A new state law, which takes effect Jan. 1, was sought by prosecutors and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week. The law applies only to those who voluntarily return to the United States. Forty-four other states have similar laws, prosecutors said.

"It's wonderful to see that we have accomplished this much, but there is still much more to be done," said Jan Maurizi, a prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Mexico will not extradite nationals accused of crimes in the U.S. punishable by death or life without parole. If extradition is denied, Mexican officials hold a trial on the charges in Mexico. But Maurizi said defendants often get short sentences in Mexico and, until the new law becomes effective, are immune from prosecution in California.

Mexican officials, however, say their country aggressively prosecutes defendants who commit crimes in California.

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