By Aaron Humes, Freelance Reporter
Deon Bruce, 28, lost another round in his fight against extradition when the Supreme Court upheld a decision of Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith. She had granted a request by American authorities’ for Bruce.
Justice Courtney Abel ruled that there was no merit to the allegations of bias by Smith in conducting pre-trial matters, nor was there procedural irregularity in considering evidence alleged not to have been properly introduced. Additionally, Justice Abel did not agree with Bruce’s claim that there was abuse of process when Smith allowed crown counsels from the Office of the Solicitor General rather than the Director of Public Prosecutions office to argue the case. He said that there were no arguments on these at trial hence the Chief Magistrate could not have considered them.
Justice Abel stated, however, that Bruce’s strongest argument, presented by his attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd, is that the evidence the U.S. authorities have furnished was insufficient to allow for Bruce’s extradition. All they have provided is the evidence of the only alleged eyewitness. The evidence presented would have been admissible in Belize except for the testimony of the case detective, Abel said, and in any event, it is not the province of the sitting judge or magistrate to weigh up evidence before a trial.
Following the ruling, Matura-Shepherd told reporters that neither she nor her client is giving up. Bruce has instructed her to seek a stay of execution pending appeal of the Friday afternoon decision.
This was the first time that judicial review was used in conjunction with the standard Habeas Corpus application. 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.
Belize’s Extradition Laws
Meanwhile, on the matter of Belize’s law, Matura-Shepherd noted that the standard of proof required by the Extradition Act of Belize and the Belize-U.S. Extradition Treaty of 2000, along with the 1870 Extradition Act of the UK which Belize follows, is low and needs to be reviewed.
Deon Bruce is wanted for murder and attempted murder for a fatal shooting in July of 2010, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Crown Counsels Illiana Swift and Trienia Young represented the Governments of Belize and the United States.