Another Perspective

Fingered for the Crime

Perry Mason would know what's up in the Wendy's case.

By 4.28.05

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Anna Ayala has waived extradition from Nevada to California, telling the judge that she is "eager" to return to California to face charges of grand theft. Apparently, she is a hoaxer of long standing. And California is quite serious about bringing charges. Why then this unseemly eagerness? We will offer today a theory that just might blow your mind. Don't go away: this is going to be good.

Let's review the story; yes, the whole fowl thing. Ms. Ayala, a native of Las Vegas, stopped for a bite at a Wendy's while traveling in San Jose, California. She ordered a bowl of chili and began to eat. Suddenly she exclaimed that she had found a finger. Indeed there it was in her chili, the finger of a human female, well-manicured. Immediately a lawsuit was begun by Ayala, while Wendy's business began to plummet.

Interestingly, KFC took the occasion of Wendy's discomfiture to announce that it would reclaim its old name: Kentucky Fried Chicken. The national fright of the fried has dissipated. Sadly, no enterprising reporter thought to ask if they would readopt the old slogan as well: "finger lickin' good."

Had Wendy's gone digital? Could it be that some woman preparing chicken in Wendy's kitchen had flipped the bird and lost her finger in the process? Or had Ms. Ayala herself performed some prestidigitation to produce the grisly souvenir as part of a scheme to facilitate some lucrative litigation? The authorities investigated busily. A search warrant was issued, allowing the Nevada police to search Ms. Ayala's home. Shortly thereafter, she announced that she would not proceed with her case due to the emotional distress it was causing.

Then the police came to her home again, this time with an arrest warrant. The State of California would like to prosecute her on a charge of grand theft, based on the millions of dollars that Wendy's lost in sales as a result of her deception (a fairly feeble case, since she never profited). Lab tests show that the finger was too chilly to have been cooked in chili. They are convinced that it was a ringer finger, and that Ms. Ayala did the ringing. Unearthed records indicate that she has a past: more into malingering than being a lingering Ma. She has sued before; is this a second-hand suit? She needs to be taught a lesson, to make her regret wending her way into Wendy's. And so here we are: waiving extradition, waving goodbye to Vegas, but a tad too "eager" for good taste. Is this another con by the old pro? Or is she really looking forward to peering at a jury?

Let us remember one piquant fact. No one has yet laid a finger on her for procuring the body part. The source of the remains remains a mystery. So stand by for my proposal.

Interstate extradition is provided for in the United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 2: A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

Thus, the premise of extradition is that the person has "fled" from the State that is seeking to administer justice. Since by definition the entry into the new State has been illicitly conceived as a method to thwart justice, the executive branch of that State effects the removal and delivery, reversing the attempted "fleeing." However, if the person entered the second State at its request, then extradition would not apply. Ayala is not fleeing to California; they are importing her into their domain through the act of extradition.

This means that if she killed a woman in Las Vegas, she will beat the rap. Once safely ensconced in California, she can even tell police where she secreted the balance of the corpse. It would probably be bad mojo to flaunt the fact that she was the killer, but theoretically she could even confess with impunity. They could announce an indictment in Nevada but she could successfully prevent her extradition from California forever.

This loophole was publicized by Erle Stanley Gardner early in his writing career and a firestorm of controversy erupted. He was never disbarred but by then he was no longer practicing law, anyway. Some have tried to argue that judges are likely to run roughshod over the wording and ignore the letter of the law. But his technical reading would seem to be indisputable. Gardner took it a step further to suggest that even if a third party committed the murder, the extradition-proof person could confess and insulate the friend from prosecution.

Everyone is chuckling that Anna Ayala is a bungling bunco artist. She just might be a step ahead. She may have committed the perfect murder.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.