Andrew Luster had it all, a multi-million dollar trust fund, good looks, and a bachelor pad just off the beach in Mussel Shoals,
California. Luster, the great-grandson of cosmetics legend Max Factor, spent his days surfing and cruising the clubs.
When the first woman alleged rape, Luster claimed mutual consent but the videotapes that the police discovered when they searched his home told a different story. Eventually more than ten women came forward and Luster was convicted of twenty counts of rape and sentenced to 124 years in prison. There was only one problem. Luster could not be found.
But Luster was brought to justice - by a dog. Duane Chapman, now known by the title of his television show, Dog: The Bounty Hunter, had been tracking Luster for months.
Finally, a tip from someone who had seen Dog on television brought Dog to a small town in Mexico with great surfing. Days later Dog spotted Luster at a taco stand and made the arrest.
Unfortunately for Dog, bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico and the US authorities, who in my opinion are embarrassed by their failure to capture Luster, haven't tried to intervene with the Mexican government to let the charges drop in the interests of justice.
This is Alex Tabarrok. Why am I posting this? To start with, entertainment value: a rich heir, a mysterious disappearance, a bounty hunter who won't quit and a raging international legal drama. That's the stuff that'll bring them in!
Secondly, 'to let the charges drop in the interests of justice'? Man goes to foreign country, breaks law of foreign country - and we are not talking been found holding a can of beer here - and justice is somehow served by allowing the man to walk free? Since when has American law been elevated to some sort of 'natural' law?
Thirdly, I get the opportunity to link to this thought-provoking paper by Alex and Eric Helland:
[Our] findings indicate that bond dealers and bail enforcement agents (bounty hunters) are effective at discouraging flight and at recapturing defendants. Bounty hunters, not public police, appear to be the true long arms of the law.
Being European, and putting effectiveness aside for a minute, I don't feel very comfortable with the concept of bounty hunters. At the same time, I can't think of a single reason why the institution is a bad idea. At the end of the day, we are not talking private justice here: the bounty hunters serve the simple administrative function of tracking down people already wanted by the police and handing them to the courts. Comments are open, and I would really appreciate any insight readers have to offer on this one.
Postscript: Yes, the title is a reference to Lorenzo Lamas.