Martinez v. United States

Decision Date07 July 2016
Docket NumberNo. 14-5860,14-5860
Citation828 F.3d 451
PartiesAvelino Cruz Martinez, Petitioner-Appellant, v. United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

ARGUED: Michael C. Holley, Federal Public Defender's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. David M. Lieberman, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Michael C. Holley, Federal Public Defender's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. David M. Lieberman, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., Lynne T. Ingram, United States Attorney's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.


SUTTON, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which BOGGS, BATCHELDER, GIBBONS, ROGERS, COOK, McKEAGUE, GRIFFIN, KETHLEDGE, and STRANCH, JJ., joined. WHITE, J. (pp. 470–71), delivered a separate opinion concurring in the judgment in which MOORE and GILMAN, JJ., joined. CLAY, J. (pp. 471–88), delivered a separate dissenting opinion. DONALD, J. (pg. 488), delivered a separate dissenting opinion in which COLE, C.J., joined.


SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

After people commit violent crimes, they sometimes flee, leaving the city of the crime in some instances, even leaving the country in others. If a fugitive leaves the country, that complicates law enforcement efforts. One trait of sovereignty is that countries have no legal, as opposed to moral, obligation to turn criminal suspects over to another country for prosecution. The point of extradition treaties is to prevent such crimes from going unpunished by imposing a golden rule obligation on each party to the treaty—an agreement by each country to return haven-seeking fugitives to the other.

The golden rule is not the first thing that came to anyone's mind after two murders occurred at a New Year's Eve party gone awry in a small Mexican village in 2006. Avelino Cruz Martinez, now a citizen of the United States, attended the party and admits that there is probable cause to believe he was the assailant. After the murders, Cruz Martinez returned to his home in the United States.

Invoking a 1978 extradition treaty, Mexico asked its northern neighbor to return Cruz Martinez to Mexico to be tried for murder. Cruz Martinez filed a habeas corpus petition, claiming that his extradition would violate Article 7 of the treaty, which prohibits extradition when prosecution or “enforcement of the penalty” for the charged offense “has become barred by lapse of time according to the laws of the requesting or requested Party.” Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., art. 7, May 4, 1978, 31 U.S.T. 5059, 5064–65. In particular, he argued that his extradition would violate (1) the relevant statute of limitations and (2) his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The district court rejected his arguments and denied his petition for habeas corpus. So do we.


Santa María Natividad, a village in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, is home to about fifty families and two hundred residents. One of those residents was Samuel Francisco Solano Cruz, who was to host a goat roast for municipal leaders and members of the town band on New Year's Day 2006. In the waning hours of 2005, he went to a party outside the local municipal hall to deliver the invitations. But shortly after he arrived, a man approached him, screamed “son of a bitch!”, and shot him six times. R. 2-13 at 14 (emphasis omitted). A bystander, Antolín Cruz Reyes, who tried to help Solano Cruz was shot as well. Both men died from the gunshot wounds, while the murderer got in his truck and fled the scene.

Solano Cruz's family accused Avelino Cruz Martinez, then a United States permanent resident (and a citizen since 2010) whose family lived in Santa María Natividad, of the murders. Within two weeks of the shooting, Solano Cruz's widow and parents met with Cruz Martinez's wife and brother before a town clerk. Although Cruz Martinez's wife maintains her husband's innocence, she, along with the four others present at the meeting, signed an agreement stating that Cruz Martinez had “committed the homicide.” R. 2-17 at 12. It also provided that “the family of the perpetrator” would pay 50,000 pesos for “the expenses incurred” by Solano Cruz's relatives as a result of the “unfortunate incident.” Id. “Once the parties accept this agreement and commit to enact its terms,” the contract concluded, “the matter shall be closed.” Id. at 13.

The matter did not close. A few days after Solano Cruz's family agreed to settle, two eyewitnesses made sworn statements before public officials, pointing to Cruz Martinez as the New Year's Eve murderer. An Oaxacan judge issued an arrest warrant charging Cruz Martinez with “murder with the aggravating circumstance of unfair advantage,” R. 2-13 at 11 (emphasis omitted), which covers homicides that occur when the perpetrator “is superior in physical force” and the victim “is not armed,” or when the perpetrator “is superior by the weapons [he] use[s] as compared to the victim, id. at 52. The court issued the warrant on February 23, 2006, and notified the public prosecutor's office the next day.

That is how things stood for the next few years. Cruz Martinez, following the murders, returned to the United States, although he traveled back to Mexico a couple times. His family remained in Santa María Natividad for a time but eventually joined him in the United States—Lebanon, Tennessee, to be precise.

In 2009, an American consular official asked about the status of Cruz Martinez's arrest warrant, and the Oaxacan court responded that it was “still pending and executable.” Id. at 59. In May 2012, the Mexican government filed a diplomatic note with the United States Department of State, informing it of the charges against Cruz Martinez and requesting his “provisional arrest” (a procedure authorized by the extradition treaty between the two nations). R. 2-6 at 16 (emphasis omitted); see Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra , art. 11, 31 U.S.T. at 5068. American authorities arrested him a little over a year later, and Mexican officials filed a formal extradition request in August 2013.

That filing triggered a set of diplomatic, judicial, and quasi-judicial procedures. Federal law authorizes the United States Secretary of State to designate federal and state judges or magistrate judges to conduct hearings whenever a foreign nation requests an individual's extradition under the terms of a treaty. 18 U.S.C. § 3184. If the judge “deems the evidence sufficient to sustain the charge,” the statute provides, he shall certify ... to the Secretary of State” that the individual is extraditable. Id. The certification decision is not appealable, although the accused may challenge it through a petition for habeas corpus. In re Mackin , 668 F.2d 122, 125–30 (2d Cir. 1981) ; see In re Metzger , 46 U.S. 176, 191–92, 5 How. 176, 12 L.Ed. 104 (1847). Following certification, the Secretary of State decides, as a matter of discretion, whether to extradite the accused. 18 U.S.C. § 3186 ; see Nezirovic v. Holt , 779 F.3d 233, 237 (4th Cir. 2015).

Complying with these procedures, the Secretary of State filed Mexico's extradition request with a federal magistrate judge in Tennessee. Cruz Martinez raised multiple challenges to his provisional arrest and to the extradition proceedings. But the magistrate judge rejected all of them, certifying to the Secretary of State that Cruz Martinez could be extradited. Cruz Martinez filed a habeas corpus action contesting the magistrate judge's certification decision, see 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a), but the district court denied his petition. Cruz Martinez appealed.


“Extradition shall not be granted,” Article 7 of the United States-Mexico Extradition Treaty says, “when the prosecution or the enforcement of the penalty” for the charged offense “has become barred by lapse of time according to the laws of the requesting or requested Party.” Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra , art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5064–65. Cruz Martinez argues that his prosecution has become barred by (1) the relevant American statute of limitations and (2) the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We consider each argument in turn.


Cruz Martinez argues that the charged offense is analogous to second-degree murder under American federal law, which means a five-year limitations period applies to the charge. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1111(a)(b), 3282(a). The government disagrees, comparing the offense to first-degree murder, which comes with no limitations period. Id. §§ 1111(a)(b), 3281, 3591(a)(2). We need not take sides on this dispute because, for the reasons forcefully expressed in the panel majority's opinion, the statute of limitations did not expire even if the five-year period applies. Cruz Martinez v. United States , 793 F.3d 533, 542–44 (6th Cir. 2015).

[N]o person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any [non-capital] offense,” the five-year limitations statute provides, “unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted within five years next after such offense shall have been committed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3282(a). Because statutes of limitations protect defendants from excessive delay between the time of the offense and the time of prosecution, they stop running when the prosecution begins—which means, in American federal courts, when an indictment or information is returned. United States v. Marion , 404 U.S. 307, 320–23, 92 S.Ct. 455, 30 L.Ed.2d 468 (1971). But Mexico, which models its legal system not on Blackstone's common law but on Napoleon's civil law, lacks the sort of indictment and information procedures that exist in the United States. Miguel Sarré & Jan Perlin, “Mexico,” in Criminal Procedure: A Worldwide Study 351, 372 (Craig M. Bradley ed., 2d ed. 2007). Does that...

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