GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A Mexican national suspected in a 1989 slaying in Colorado can be put on trial in the United States, even though he was acquitted of the same killing in Mexico, a U.S. judge ruled.
The judge said trying Rafael “Shorty” Aguilar Garcia on a first-degree murder charge would not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of double jeopardy, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/2qNNsOx ).
Garcia, now 67, is accused of fatally shooting Charles Porter in the western Colorado town of Palisade. Authorities said it appeared to be a love-triangle dispute.
Garcia returned to Mexico before he could be arrested and was apprehended there in 2009.
The Mexican government is reluctant to extradite citizens charged with serious crimes in U.S. states such as Colorado that allow the death penalty, so it put Garcia on trial in Mexican Federal District Court. Despite the assistance of prosecutors from Colorado, Garcia was found not guilty in 2012.
Authorities learned last year that Garcia had returned to Colorado. Authorities said he was in the U.S. legally, although the reason for his return was not clear.
The original arrest warrant on suspicion of murder was still valid, and he was arrested.
Garcia’s lawyers contend that trying him in the U.S. after he was acquitted in Mexico amounts to double jeopardy because prosecutors in Mesa County, which includes Palisade, requested Mexican authorities put him on trial and helped with the prosecution.
Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza disagreed, saying Mexico was an independent authority and had not acted merely as a part of Colorado government.
He said there was no dispute that Colorado authorities had requested the trial and helped Mexican authorities.
“The request and cooperation, however, are not the sources of Mexico’s power to prosecute. The source of Mexico’s power is Article IV of its own penal code. A penal code adopted by the People of Mexico is the source of authorities,” Timbreza said.
Garcia is next scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 16.