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U.S. Killers Walk Free In Mexico?

In California, there is growing outrage that murderers can often go south of the border and simply walk free.

Although there have been hundreds of such cases, it was a cop killing that sparked the loudest protest, The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports.

It's been two years since L.A. County Sheriffs Deputy David March was murdered. Showing the badge of her husband, Teri March leads a visitor to a shrine in her house to the dead officer.

"Committed, loyal, steadfast," is how Teri March describes her husband with tears in her eyes. "He was a wonderful husband, a great father, my best friend, the best officer I'd ever known."

March was gunned down during a routine traffic stop. The man he'd pulled over, Armando Garcia, had vowed to kill the next cop who stopped him.

Teri March says, "He was shot in the head execution-style, and his killer fled the scene."

An intense police manhunt led to the discovery of Garcia's car. But Garcia was nowhere to be found. Shortly after the funeral of her husband, March learned his suspected killer had escaped to Mexico.

"And I said, 'We're going to get him, right?' I was ignorant," she says. "I thought, he will just hide." Or the Mexican police will get him and send him back. But she notes, "It doesn't work that way."

Because Mexico does not impose the death penalty, it refuses to extradite any Mexican national who might face the death penalty for a crime committed in America. Ironically, if Garcia had simply wounded the officer rather than killed him, it would be much easier to get him back to stand trial.

John March, father of the murder victim, says, "If they went into your house and robbed you and went to Mexico, they could be extradicted. If they went into your house, robbed you and murdered your family, they won't be extradited and they'll be home free. This cannot stand."

This month, hundreds of protestors joined the March family at a rally to demand justice. In L.A. county alone, authorities estimate, there are 200-300 cases in which murderers have fled to Mexico.

At the rally, Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County district attorney, said, "Until we get some measure of justice for David March, his family, and all the rest of the victims, I say shame on the Mexican Supreme Court. And I say shame on our federal authorities, who have not done enough to bring justice for these victims."

Teri March hoped the president would pressure Mexico. But meanwhile, the Mexican Supreme Court made it even tougher to extradite murderers. Now, Mexico won't send back suspects who face a sentence of life in prison.

Teri March says, "Basically, we have a Mexican justice system who is adamantly against life in prison or the death penalty. We have our district attorney who is adamant in only receiving life in prison or the death penalty. It's a Catch 22. It is very much that."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says, "I don't think any murderer of a cop should ever get out of prison."

He wants Congress to pressure the Mexicans. "Murder is murder," he says. "I don't think that any of us will compromise the reality that he killed a police officer, and he killed a police officer with intent to do so, and if that doesn't mean anything in Mexico, it will continue to mean something in the United States."

Weeping, Teri March notes, "This has been a chapter that we can't close." Deputy David March left a daughter as well as a widow. Their daughter knows the man who killed her dad is walking free.

Teri March notes to her daughter her husband was "the man who did homework with her, he was the guy who, you know, did the barbecues." He loved fishing and softball.

With tears streaming down her cheeks, she says, "He would be so sad to see the turmoil and the pain that this has caused our family."

She can't have any closure until there's some justice done. "I need justice," she says. "Our family needs justice. Law enforcement needs justice."

Teri March says she's hoping for some kind of compromise, just to bring Armando Garcia back to the United States, even if it means less than a life sentence. But for now, there is no sign that either the U.S. or the Mexican government is willing to back down.

Sheriff Baca points out, "California, essentially, lost its sovereignty. There are 40,000 illegal immigrants in the state prison system here. Twenty-three percent of the county jail population in Los Angeles county are illegal immigrants and what we have is a revolving door"

But he tells Teri March not to give up hope. "All of us here in law enforcement are one family. That doesn't matter what part of the United States. When someone kills a cop, they have killed the department, in effect. And we can't allow that to happen. We need the federal government's help. We need Mexico to change its laws. The Mexican people do not deserve to have killers running loose in their country, as well. Let's do a better job."

Garcia is also wanted by Baldwin Park police in connection with two attempted murders in that city as well. According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, there are 360 victims with a family member murdered by someone who fled to Mexico.

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