If you masquerade as a US citizen, you’ll be treated as one

Back in 1989, Bay Area locals were stunned to learn of a horrific massacre up in Sonoma County:

[Ramon] Salcido, now 47, used a gun and knife to murder his wife, Angela Richards Salcido, 24; their daughters, 4-year-old Sofia and 22-month-old Teresa; his mother-in-law, Marion Richards, 47; her daughters, 12-year-old Ruth and 8-year-old Maria; and Tracey Toovey, 35, his supervisor at Grand Cru Winery in Glen Ellen.

He was also convicted of attempting to murder his 2-year-old daughter, Carmina, who survived a slashed throat, and another winery worker, Kenneth Butti, who was shot in the shoulder.

After these heinous murders, Salcido escaped to Mexico, where he was caught and returned to California for trial.  The jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty.  He’s been appealing ever since, a process that just resulted in an opinion from the California Supreme Court.

Almost surprisingly, given that it is a California Court, the judges ruled that the death penalty was valid.  They batted down his arguments about mental illness and information withheld from the jury, and all sorts of other stuff.

The argument that intrigued me was Salcido’s claim that, as a Mexican citizen, he could not be extradited from Mexico (which has no death penalty) to America.  This is a familiar argument, as we’ve seen it play out before, with Mexico refusing to turn suspected killers over to the US authorities.  This time, though, there was a twist.  In reading the following, you have to appreciate the unspoken concept behind all this, which is that Salcido was here in America, and committed all those horrible acts, as an illegal alien:

In his appeal, Salcido’s lawyer contended his client, who was a Mexican citizen, had been transferred to the United States in violation of a treaty that allows the Mexican government to block the extradition of one of its citizens unless U.S. authorities promise not to impose the death penalty, which does not exist in Mexico.

Salcido’s lawyer contended agents from Sonoma County and the federal government had induced Mexican officials to transfer Salcido by identifying him as a U.S. citizen.

But the court said law enforcement officials from both countries had believed Salcido was a U.S. citizen based on his own statements and on Salcido’s residence in California, where he had a Social Security card and a driver’s license.

In other words, the Supreme Court said that, if you’re going to go around pretending to be an American citizen, you can’t complain if you are then treated as one to your detriment.  In any event, the Court added, only the Mexican government gets to complain if one of its citizens is wrongfully taken from its borders.  Given Salcido’s appalling conduct, Mexico may feel that this is one citizenship error better left unremedied.