Illinois Senators Ask French Embassy to Reconsider Extradition of Confessed Murderer

On the afternoon of October 24, 2006, Dr. David Cornbleet, a respected Chicago dermatologist and family man was brutally stabbed to death in his office. Nothing was stolen from Dr. Cornbleet’s office, so robbery did not seem to be the motive for the killing.

Initially, police had little information to go on except for security camera footage of a person believed to be the murder suspect entering and leaving the building. The surveillance footage shows the person used either a white glove or cloth while opening the door, likely to avoid leaving fingerprints.

When the man shown on the security camera footage rode the elevator back down to the lobby, a woman who was also in the elevator reported to the reception desk that the man was covered in blood and was breathing heavily. After the murder was discovered, police interviewed this woman in hopes of gaining some clues as to the killer’s identity.

During August there was a huge development in the case, from an unexpected location. In France, Hans Peterson turned himself in to authorities and reportedly confessed to murdering Dr. Cornbleet.

Peterson’s mother is French. He reportedly fled to France after becoming a suspect in the murder of Dr. Cornbleet in order to avoid being prosecuted in the U.S.

Following the reported confession, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs issued a formal request to France, asking for Peterson’s extradition to the United States. In late August, France announced their decision not to extradite Peterson . He is currently in police custody in Guadeloupe.

After the decision by French authorities not to extradite Hans Peterson was announced, two U.S. Senators from Illinois immediately wrote a letter to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, urging France to reconsider its decision.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama sent their letter, dated August 24, 2007, to Chargé d’Affaires François Rivasseau at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, urging the Government of France to grant the request of the U.S. and extradite Peterson so that he can face the criminal charges against him in Chicago.

Durbin and Obama also sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, requesting that she immediately ask her French counterparts to urgently look at the extradition request and to advise the U.S. Embassy in Paris of the importance of this case.

In their letter to the French Embassy, Durbin and Obama say that the French Ministry of Justice considers Peterson to be a French national, although he was born and had lived his entire life in the United States prior to fleeing to France. Because the French Ministry considers him to be a French national, according to Article 3 of the Extradition Treaty between the United States and France, they are not obligated to grant the extradition.

Durbin and Obama argue in their letter that they believe that the facts of this case warrant Peterson’s immediate extradition.

“Dr. Cornbleet’s family, the people of Illinois, and the United States criminal justice system have a strong and compelling interest in seeing Mr. Peterson face trial in the United States. We strongly urge the Government of France to reconsider its decision to deny the extradition request for Mr. Peterson and to allow him to face charges in the nation where the crime he confessed to was committed. We ask you for the favor of a swift response.”

For now, Dr. Cornbleet’s family and Chicago police wait and wonder while French authorities decide if they will stand behind their decision not to extradite Peterson, or if they will turn him over to authorities in the U.S. for criminal prosecution in Chicago for the murder of Dr. David Cornbleet.