On Friday morning Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin finished hearing arguments from the attorney of Mark Seawell, the Belizean wanted in Ohio, USA on charges of drug trafficking and running a continuous criminal enterprise between 1994 and 1997 in his application for habeas corpus. After court, Arthur Saldivar explains what habeas corpus is and why his client is invoking it.
Arthur Saldivar – Attorney
We can only decide on questions of law as it relates to the principles of the habeas corpus. Habeas corpus in invoked where a person believes that their detention is unlawful. That is the activating premise for the habeas corpus. Thereafter you must show why you believe it’s unlawful, and that belief must be couched in principles of law. What I am seeking to establish is that there is no chance of my client getting a fair trial in the United States if he is extradited. The reason why I have come to that conclusion, and why the presentations and submissions were based on that aspect, is that it’s clear from the record that the United States relies on statements made by persons who were charged with the same offence, and persons who had an interest to serve in incriminating the applicant, incriminating Mark Seawell. So it cannot be ascertained whether or not what they say was done at the time they said it because it was true, or whether it was stated because they were getting a break, a lesser sentence and a promise of not being prosecuted for more serious offences.
According to Mr Saldivar the case saw a significant restriction as to what he could present in defense of his client.
Arthur Saldivar – Attorney
The application is not yet finished. The Crown Council will have to respond to submissions made. It should be noted that I was prevented in this application from providing my own affidavit. The affidavit that I had to rely on, in this application, was submitted well before I came on board with this process. So at the end of the day, there was a certain level of restriction, and I was confined to operate within. It should not impact on the substance of the submissions, because ultimately what it boils down to is whether or not the statements of the four accused persons, who appeared in the incitement along with Mark Seawell, should be admitted as evidence, and whether or not the Chief Magistrate in her ruling to order extradition gave due deference to what those statements contained, and the implication they have on the ability of the accused to get a fair trial.
We asked whether, as the Government will charge, the case is simply being retried after former Chief Magistrate Margaret Gabb McKenzie’s decision to commit Mark Seawell went against his client. Here is Arthur Saldivar’s response.
No. I’m trying to get that committal hearing quashed. I’m trying to ensure that my client is given a fair shake, because he was never given a fair shake by the Chief Magistrate. It’s obvious from the ruling, in my interpretation, that the Chief Magistrate did not address her mind to matters pertinent to the Constitutional rights of the accused. As a result of that, he never got a fair hearing during the committal proceeding.
The case continues on August 26 with Government Crown Counsel responding.