In a case that has drawn international attention, murder charges were dismissed yesterday against a man previously convicted of the crime and imprisoned in Mexico.
Judge Herbert J. Exarhos ruled that Celestino Mendez Martinez is protected by state and federal constitutions from being tried in California for stabbing his estranged wife to death in May 1988 in El Cajon.
In 1988, Martinez told police that he was angry with his wife Magdalena over custody provisions in their pending divorce and confronted her at her parents' house after stopping at a store to buy a fishing knife.
Martinez, 43, stabbed his wife and wounded a neighbor who tried to intervene. He fled to his parents' house in Tijuana with his 7-month-old daughter and was arrested by Mexican police the next day.
Although the crime was committed in El Cajon, Martinez was prosecuted and convicted in Mexico under a section of Mexico's penal code, Article 4, which allows Mexican citizens to be arrested and prosecuted in Mexico for a crime committed in the United States.
Until 2004, California prosecutors were barred from trying someone already convicted in another country. The law was changed in 2004, and prosecutors went after Martinez, saying the five years he served in a Mexican prison was insufficient
punishment for murder.
Certainly, the judge is in a tough spot here. Judge Exarhos doesn't exactly have a reputation of being soft on criminals and doesn't seem to have a record of giving illegal aliens a break. I'm not a legal expert, but I can see why Judge Exaros could see a problem with applying a 2004 law to a 1988 case retroactively.
But you gotta love that Mexican justice system! FIVE years for a murder! Of course if you are a foreigner who is accused of some misdemeanor fraud in Mexico...you might get held in jail for two years without even getting a trial.
But have no fear residents of San Diego County...Martinez won't be back on our streets! Looks like he's about to be...deported:
Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Gayle said prosecutors may appeal.
Martinez will remain in jail on federal immigration charges, she said.
At the time of his September arrest, Martinez was living in Oceanside under an assumed name after entering the country illegally, prosecutors said.
And considering how difficult it is to get across our border with Mexico, we can all sleep well at night knowing that Martinez won't be back in the US to kill again:
Update: Brian at Snapped Shot has more California justice for illegal aliens.