Bruce’s attorney says he will appeal the decision
After almost two full days of arguments in a judicial review and a writ of habeas corpus application that were unprecedentedly joined together in the Deon Bruce extradition matter, Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel denied the writ of habeas corpus, which would have resulted in Bruce’s freedom, and he upheld Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith’s decision to extradite Bruce to the U.S.
Relying on the extradition treaty signed between the Government of Belize and the Government of the United States of America in 2000, the U.S. has made an extradition request for Belizean Deon Bruce, 28, who has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury for murder, attempted murder and firearm-related charges in Chicago.
In mid-January, Chief Magistrate Smith ruled that Bruce should be extradited to stand trial in the U.S.
But Bruce, through his attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd, promptly filed for a judicial review of the Chief Magistrate’s ruling. It is also standard for persons who are the subject of an extradition request to file for a writ of habeas corpus to determine if they are being lawfully detained.
In the hearing before Justice Abel, Matura-Shepherd was relying on eight grounds in her effort to overturn the Chief Magistrate’s decision and to secure the release of her client.
But almost all of the grounds that she was relying upon were struck down by Justice Abel.
Matura-Shepherd had submitted that the Director of Public Prosecution was the one who should have argued the U.S. case, and not a Crown Counsel from the Solicitor General’s office (Crown Counsel Illana Swift represented the U.S. in the hearing).
But Justice Abel ruled against the argument that extradition cases should be prosecuted by the DPP.
The evidence that the U.S. presented in its extradition bundle was also one of the grounds Matura-Shepherd used, but that argument was also struck down.
Matura-Shepherd argued against the poor quality of the U.S. photographic evidence used to identify Bruce, but the Judge was not persuaded by that argument.
Outside the court, Matura-Shepherd told reporters that her client has instructed her to file for a stay of execution of the judgment while they pursue an appeal of the decision.
“Every point we made … was ruled against us; however, that’s not the end of it. I’ve just received instructions from my client that he wants to appeal the decision and therefore we are going to submit a stay of execution of the order and submit appeals, and we are looking at other options….,” Matura-Shepherd disclosed.
“The reason some of these matters went against us was because the judge was saying that those were points that should have been taken at the Magistrate’s Court level”, explained Matura-Shepherd
Matura-Shepherd went on to comment, “as more and more Belizeans will be sought for extradition, more and more of them will be challenging it and more and more attorneys will be taking it on and you have to look at all different avenues because an extradition act is a 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 US for crimes that they allegedly did there….”
She said that Belize does not have the financial means to extradite U.S. citizens to Belize.
“There is a bigger policy issue here, and I think the time is coming where that law (the Extradition Act of 2000) has to be challenged,” said Matura-Shepherd.