Editorial, The client from Hell



Ricardo Martinelli, the client from Hell

The demanding government, when it has done all that the treaty and the law require it to do, is entitled to the delivery of the accused on the issue of the proper warrant, and the other government is under obligation to make the surrender; an obligation which it might be impossible to fulfil if release on bail were permitted. The enforcement of the bond, if forfeited, would hardly meet the international demand; and the regaining of the custody of the accused obviously would be surrounded with serious embarrassment.
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We are unwilling to hold that the circuit courts possess no power in respect of admitting to bail other than as specifically vested by statute, or that, while bail should not ordinarily be granted in cases of foreign extradition, those courts may not in any case, and whatever the special circumstances, extend that relief.
Wright v Henkel
US Supreme Court (1903)


In the 1903 decision of Wright v Henkel, former President Ricardo Martinelli’s Miami lawyers argue, the US Supreme Court violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against “excessive bail.” Moreover, Martinelli’s lawyers argue, the US Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida has no jurisdiction to decide whether their client gets bail. This, in a 40-page “emergency” motion for habeas corpus, filed while the high court is in recess and won’t be back into regular sessions until October.

Martinelli, who boasts that he’s a billionaire, offered some two percent of his claimed personal fortune — $20 million — to get out of jail on bail while extradition proceedings against him continue. US Magistrate Edwin G. Torres rejected that offer, citing in particular the risk that Martinelli would skip bail and flee given that a conviction on the wiretapping and embezzlement charges in Panama could mean that a man his age would spend the rest of his life in prison and given the enormous wealth that Martinelli possesses.

Usually, the risk of flight is the central issue in a bail decision. In an ordinary US criminal case in which a life sentence without possibility of parole or the death penalty are possibilities, there is no bail because it is expected that many or most people facing such a risk would run. But Martinelli’s case is not a US criminal matter, but an international extradition case. The rules are different in those, and even if bail is possible, because of the risk of international embarrassment it’s rare.

Another ordinary bail consideration is whether it is likely that, through intimidation or bribery, a defendant will thwart the operation of justice by exerting pressure on complainants or witnesses. And wasn’t that one of the first things that Martinelli did after the defeat of his proxy re-election bid in 2014? He told the members of his Cambio Democratico legislative caucus that they had better do what he says because he has a dossier on every one of them.

Martinelli has already fled to escape justice and has already intimidated potential witnesses in his case. Those sorts of prior acts are also commonly taken into account in the bail decisions for garden variety criminal cases.

Nobody can know with any certainty what the US Supreme Court will do, but it seems that Mr. Martinelli has hired lawyers to bring a frivolous motion. They would have the US legal system tear itself apart by declaring that its federal district courts can’t hear extradition cases. They would overturn a precedent of more than a century’s standing, one that reflected strong public policy imperatives and still does. They would have the ordinary bail considerations of flight risk and protection of witnesses and victims set aside.

Why? Apparently because it’s Ricky Martinelli.

The adult criminal who has never figured out that he or she is not the center of the universe, around which everything and everyone revolves, may actually be in synch with the people who have gained the upper hand in US society and government. But from a lawyer’s perspective, these are the clients from Hell.

Bear in mind…


No doubt one may quote history to support any cause, as the devil quotes scripture; but modern history is not a very satisfactory side-arm in political polemics; it grows less and less so.
Judge Learned Hand


Two phenomena, in my view, are particularly disturbing: One is the prevalence of the use of torture to extract confessions and information and the second one is the intimidation of those who make complaints against public officials. In my opinion, there is no doubt that these phenomena are more than allegations, but have in fact considerable basis in reality.
Judge Louise Arbour


The International Bill of Rights must not be restricted to a redefinition of old rights. I believe the Bill should recognize that man may be oppressed not only by political power but by economic power.
Ricardo J. Alfaro Jované


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