As a former prosecutor and judge in Harris County, Texas for 30 years, and now as the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus, I have heard and seen the gamut of crimes against individuals, families and property. But I have also heard and seen far too many cases of justice denied because the right people failed to act.

Such is the case of Lindsay Brashier.

Lindsay Brashier was a promising 18-year-old college student when her life was cut tragically short. Lindsay was a passenger in a car driven by her roommate, Evelyn Mezzich. Both girls were students at the University of Texas, just two months into their first semester. Lindsay was studying to be a surgeon and frequently donated large portions of her time to community service. But, on the night of November 10, 1996, Evelyn was driving drunk. She fell asleep at the wheel and collided with a telephone pole. The collision killed Lindsay instantly and permanently paralyzed a third passenger.

Mezzich was indicted for intoxicated manslaughter. In Texas, that means she was charged with a felony for drinking, driving and killing someone in the process. Shortly after, Evelyn jumped bail and she and her parents fled to their native Peru, where she continues to reside in freedom today.

A few years ago, Evelyn started a MySpace page. From the looks of it, youd never know she was a fugitive. She posted pictures of herself, partying, drinking and dancing with her friends. She listed drinking as one of her favorite activities, and even uploaded a video to her site that showed a Paris Hilton look-alike running from the cops and making fun of drunk driving. In my opinion, there was no indication that she showed any remorse for her part in Lindsays death, other than the hollow irony of the quote she chose to place on her page: Lifes too short, so live it up!

It has been nearly fourteen years since Lindsay was killed. Evelyn Mezzich is now 32 years old. She is married and has a son. She continues to live out her life in comfort and security, courtesy of the government of Peru, while Lindsays family is left without answers, closure, or assistance.

Justice, sure and swift, is the hallmark of the American judicial system. The fact that this case continues to linger unresolved is a failure of the law, order and diplomatic procedures that are put in place to keep us safe. Fundamentally, this failure of justice for Lindsay rests squarely upon the Travis County District Attorneys office and the Departments of State and Justice.

Rather than pursuing Evelyn Mezzich through the arm of the Justice and State Departments, the Travis County District Attorneys office has let the case languish. Only when the case gained attention from a media outlet did the office re-open this case in 2007, formally sending an extradition request to the government of Peru. The request was denied on October 14, 2009. Assistant District Attorney Claire Dawson-Brown sent the one page denial to Lindsays mother, Marilyn, with a short, perfunctory note: The request was denied. Enclosed is a copy of the diplomatic note . . . It is in Spanish and I do not have a translation. And that was that. I am not aware of any further effort made on their part to pursue this case in any capacity.

It is likewise intolerable that the government of Peru continues to protect Evelyn Mezzich. We have an extradition treaty with Peru specifically to handle these types of situations, and Peru should act according to its obligations. Should they fail to take the required action, the State Department should reprimand Peru diplomatically and economically by withholding foreign assistance. It must be clear that the United States does not reward countries that harbor those individuals who do our citizens harm.

I have personally written to the State Department, to the Justice Department, to the American Ambassador to Peru and to the Peruvian Ambassador to the United States expressing my concerns and urging them to have this denial overturned. I have additionally asked to meet with each them personally so we can discuss the actions they are taking in this case.

Justice is what we do in America. I will continue to work to bring Evelyn Mezzich back to the United States to face the justice she deserves.

Congressman Ted Poe represents Texas second district. He is a former prosecutor and felony court judge in Harris County, Texas, and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus. Please direct comments to vrc@mail.house.gov or to (202) 225-6565.

Copyright In Cold Blog

To view the article online, click here.