Mexican high court rules criminals facing life in prison

Mexico's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects facing life in prison can be extradited, overturning a 4-year-old ban that had prevented many of the country's most-notorious criminals from being sent to the United States to face justice.

A 1978 treaty with the United States allows Mexico to deny extradition if a person faces the death penalty. In 2001, the Supreme Court also blocked extradition of suspects facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The U.S. Embassy had no comment on Tuesday's ruling. Judges ruled 6-5 to throw out the life without parole restriction, but their ruling will not ease extradition restrictions for suspects who could face the death penalty, a court spokesman said.

During a full high court session, 10 judges normally vote. In the case of a tie, chief justice Mariano Azuela is called upon to cast the deciding vote. The 2001 ban kept many of the country's top drug lords and other notorious suspects in Mexico when U.S. authorities were desperate to try them north of the border.

In one of the latest cases, Raul Gomez-Garcia was caught in Mexico in June after being accused of killing a Denver police officer. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey brought second-degree murder charges against Gomez-Garcia because a first-degree charge could have blocked the extradition by allowing life imprisonment or the death penalty, AP reports.

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