This afternoon, Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel declined to issue a writ of ha-beas cor-pus and upheld the decision of Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith issued in January to extradite 28 year old Deon Bruce to Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., to face trial of charges of murder and attempted murder for a fatal shooting in July of 2010.
Justice Abel delivered his decision after arguments in the case were completed around 12:45 p.m.
He did not agree with a single point raised by Bruce’s attorney, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, ruling that there was no merit to the charges of alleged bias, procedural irregularity, abuse of process and similar charges, some of which had not been argued at trial and therefore not considered by the Chief Magistrate.
On the strongest point raised, that the evidence provided by U.S. authorities was insufficient to allow for Bruce’s extradition, Justice Abel said that the evidence of the sole female eyewitness in the case was not weak enough to be dismissed, and any inaccuracies could be tested at a trial.
But Matura-Shepherd told reporters afterward that neither she nor her client are giving up.
“We also said that the evidence that was before the chief magistrate, was so dangerous, so limited; it was not sufficient to even ground going taking this any further. The judge ruled no. We also said that one of the things that needed to that we were disputing the quality of the photograph of the identification. So, the judge ruled against us as well. One of the other issues we also bought up was the authenticity of the documents; the judge ruled against us again. The reasons went against us is because the judge was saying that those were points that should have been taken at a magistrate’s court level. However, that is not the end of it. I just received instruction from my client that he wants to appeal the decision, and we’ll therefore, we are going to submit the stay of execution of the other and we’ll submit appeals and we are looking at that options, not only in spite of this case, but he is looking at other principles of law that is against us that we need to challenge”.
Regardless of the outcome, legal and judicial history was made and according to Matura-Shepherd, there is much for the country to consider in future extradition cases.:
Audrey Matura Shepherd: “It is the first that I know of, but it surely be the last Belizean, because there will be more and more Belizeans sought for extradition, and more attorneys will be challenging it, looking at all different venues because an extradition Act is very serious legislation that our government entered into without the sanction of the people since 2000, and as a result of that, citizens of this country can be taken to the U.S. for clients that they allegedly did there, but we are yet to get anyone from the lest to Belize because we have no financial moves to do it and ironically, they will take them, convict them there and still deport them back . So there is a bigger policy issue there and so, the time is coming where that law has to be challenged and cannot be just subverted… and the standard that they utilize to extradite is so low. Basically, they just say he is of our due and we have this and they are gone. It is very serious and I think that beyond the legal arguments in the courts, we will need to consider the implications for the country”.
Bruce had several attorneys working on the case, including Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith who led the Magistrate’s Court committal hearing. Matura-Shepherd says they will continue looking down all legal avenues to challenge the decision.
In the meantime, Bruce was taken back to lockdown at the Central Prison.
Crown Counsels Illiana Swift and Trienia Young appeared on behalf of the Governments of Belize and the United States.