504 U.S. 655 (more)
Full case name
United States, Petitioners v. Humberto Alvarez-Machain
Rehnquist, joined by White, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas
Stevens, joined by Blackmun, O'Connor
Sosa v Alvarez‑Machain, United States v Alvarez, Filartiga v Pena‑Irala, The Paquete Habana
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.