SHERIDAN — County prosecutors await the extradition from Montana of Christian L. Torres, 15, who is accused of murdering his father, Edgar “Eddie” Jones, on July 27, 2021. Torres has not yet been extradited from Montana, local officials said, because Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has delayed in signing the defendant’s extradition warrant.
Court documents state that, after allegedly killing his father at the family’s home in Dayton, Wyoming, Torres attempted to flee to Billings, Montana, in his father’s truck. When the teenager crashed the truck near Hardin, Montana, on the night of July 27, he was taken into custody by local law enforcement and admitted to the murder. Torres’ arrest in Montana — rather than Wyoming — necessitated his extradition from the former state to the latter.
However, Torres’ extradition is taking longer than usual. Although Torres was charged with second-degree murder on July 29 and a warrant was issued for his arrest the same day, the defendant’s extradition process has stalled because Gianforte has not yet signed his extradition warrant, according to Sheridan prosecutors.
Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Dianna Bennett said Monday the delay in extradition was “getting very frustrating” and that she doubted county officials would ever learn the reason behind the Montana governor’s procrastination in signing the extradition warrant.
Representatives from Montana’s Governor’s office did not respond to the Press’ requests for comment.
The legal basis for this type of extradition lies in the U.S. Constitution and the Extradition Act of 1794, now part of the federal criminal code. “A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State,” the Extradition Clause — Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution — declares, “shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed of the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”
Federal law reiterates this requirement, necessitating that authorities in the state to which the fugitive has fled attempt to capture and return the fugitive to the proper jurisdiction for prosecution.
Supreme Court precedent also recognizes the importance of enforcing extraditions. The 1987 case Puerto Rico v. Branstad allows federal officials to require that states comply with extradition requests, while California v. Superior Court, decided the same year, prohibits governors from blocking interstate extraditions except in cases in which extradition documents are not properly filed, the person to be extradited has not been charged with crime, the person to be extradited is not the person named in extradition documents or the person to be extradited is not a fugitive.
Based on federal law and the Supreme Court’s ruling in California v. Superior Court, it is unlikely Gianforte will deny Torres’ extradition. Per court documents, county attorneys have charged Torres with a crime, Torres fled after the alleged murder, and extradition documents have been filed to attempt to return him to the state.
The case to prosecute Torres, though, cannot move forward until he appears in Wyoming court.