Clarification of Answer by
24 Oct 2006 16:39 PDT
Let me begin by repeating a point I made earlier. I think it highly
unlikely that the US government would decide to pursue charges under
the circumstances you described.
However, if they *wanted* to, I don't see anything stopping them.
And indeed...they may want to, if the case receives some sort of
noteriety. Perhaps relations with Cuba are warming, and we want to
see that justice is done. Perhaps the murder victim actually worked
for the CIA. Perhaps the NY Times decided to run the story on the
front page, under the headline, "Getting Away With Murder on the High
Seas", turning the case into a cause celebre.
Whatever may prompt the government to act, they can act if they want to.
Your orginal question asked "have I committed a crime"?
But it's important to recognize that a question like has to be
answered in several parts. A *prosecuter* may think that a crime has
been committed and that US courts are the proper venue, and have the
alleged perpetrator arrested. Whether the courts eventually *agree*
that, indeed, a crime was committed -- or whether US courts have the
proper jurisdiction -- is another matter entirely, and may take years
In 1985, an American DEA agent was killed in Mexico:
The US had Mexican nationals kidnapped and brought to the US for
trial. They collected evidence in Mexico through methods that would
have been unconstitutionial in the US. The action resulted in two
Supreme Court decisions that I know of, which in some respects
extended extraterritorial authority, and in some respects, constrained
The point is, the DEA wanted these guys, and went and got them, and
the legal fine points were worked out after the fact. The same could
happen in the case you described, if someone in US law enforcement
wanted to pursue it badly enough.
What law, you ask? A fair question, but the matter of which laws
could be brought to bear depends entirely on the details of the case,
of which I am not privy. Perhaps piracy. Or conspiracy. Murder
statutes for sure, though it's hard to say which one. Don't forget,
though, that they got Al Capone on tax evasion...when you want the guy
badly enough, you use whatever works!
Even the Geneva Convention might be brought to bear:
...On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of
any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship
taken by piracy and under pirates, and arrest the persons and seize
the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the
seize may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also
determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or
property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.
Lastly, I would bring your attention to this interesting article from
the United States Department of Justice:
International Organized Crime
It's worth spending some time with, but here's a bit of a sense of the
eagerness with which some parts of law enforcement are seeking to
expand US authority in traditionally murky areas:
...Traditionally, criminal statutes are not given extraterritorial
application unless some misconduct occurred within the United States,
as noted in United States v. Wright-Barker, 784 F.2d 161, 166-68 (3d
Cir. 1986)(citing Strassheim v. Dailey, 221 U.S. 280, 285 (1911)).
However, the most recent draft of the Restatement of the Foreign
Relations Law of the United States asserts that laws can be applied
extraterritorially when their only nexus to the United States is an
intended effect upon or within the United States...
...Wright-Barker also noted the following five principles governing a
sovereign's interest in exercising criminal jurisdiction:
1) territorial?within a country's territorial borders;
2) nationality?as applied to a country?s own nationals, wherever located;
3) passive personality?as applied to those who commit crimes against a
country?s nationals, wherever located;
4) protective?applied to acts that have a potentially adverse effect
on a country's security and governmental interests, wherever
5) universal?applied by any country to acts, wherever committed,
regarded as heinous crimes.
U.S. courts have sustained extraterritorial application of the RICO
statute involving predicate crimes committed on foreign soil
consistent with the principles enumerated above. For example, in
United States v. Noriega, 746 F. Supp. 1506, 1512-17 (S.D. Fla. 1990),
the district court held that the RICO statute applied
extraterritorially to drug trafficking, even regarding a defendant
whose conduct occurred entirely outside the United States, because
Congress intended that the RICO statute "be read expansively as a
means of attacking organized crime at every level" and "be liberally
construed to effectuate its remedial purpose."
You may argue that none of the laws or situations I cited apply in
your case (though item #2 in the above list certainly seems to apply).
And who knows...you may be absolutely right. But no one would know
for sure until your man was arrested, brought to the US for trial, and
the courts were allowed the opportunity to say yea or nay to the
Figure that would take a good five or ten years, all told.
Let me know if there's anything more I can do for you on this.