Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Mentally ill man facing extradition - Gov’t yet to make decision on two-decade-old request

Published:Sunday | May 31, 2020 | 12:20 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Delroy Chuck
Delroy Chuck

AN EXTRADITION request by United States (US) authorities for a mentally ill Jamaican man wanted for murder in the state of New York was lodged at the Ministry of Justice for over a decade with no action, officials have confirmed.

What’s worse, checks by The Sunday Gleaner have revealed that the extradition request dates back more than two decades, spanning five justice ministers across successive People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party administrations.

“Nobody wants to make the decision because, ultimately, it’s for the executive,” one local law enforcement insider charged.

Local authorities say their US counterparts shared some responsibility for the long, drawn-out process, citing records which show that it took the Americans six years to provide authenticated documents requested to support the extradition.

The accused killer, whose name is being withheld, has been indicted by a New York grand jury for the July 1993 shooting death of another man during a gambling dispute in Orange County, officials have revealed.

He was tracked to Jamaica in May 1997 by US law enforcement agents, marking the start of a long, winding process to have him stand trial in New York.

Incumbent Justice Minister Delroy Chuck confirmed on Friday that he recently became aware of the extradition request, which, according to his recollection, has been at the ministry “over 10 years now”.

“It has just been brought to my attention and I’m investigating it,” Chuck told The Sunday Gleaner.

Using diplomatic channels

However, local law enforcement insiders told The Sunday Gleaner that the Government is using diplomatic channels to have the issue resolved swiftly. According to one source, the justice ministry has already asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to dispatch a letter to US authorities requesting further “critical” information related to the case.

This information, the source explained, will be used to help the Jamaican Government decide whether to give the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has the authority to proceed with the extradition request.

The ODPP acts on behalf of the requesting state in extradition cases.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn confirmed that her office has written to the justice ministry “bringing certain things to their attention”, but did not provide details.

“Before anything can be done, the [justice] minister has to give the authority to proceed,” explained Llewellyn, who was not yet appointed DPP at the time the extradition request was sent to the ODPP.

The mentally ill accused killer has since been located by the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Fugitive Apprehension Team living on the streets in a rural parish, but has not been taken into custody because of the diplomatic initiative and the fact that he is “not the master of his mind”.

Sources disclosed that after he was tracked to Jamaica in 1997, American authorities issued a provisional warrant for his arrest.

But it was soon discovered that he was in police custody in St Ann facing a charge of arson.

“On May 13, 1997, he was found unfit to plead in the St Ann Circuit Court and detained at the governor general’s pleasure,” one insider disclosed.

His condition improved after two years and the arson charge was reinstated.

“He pleaded guilty and he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment suspended for three years with psychiatric supervision as he had been diagnosed as suffering from a schizoaffective disorder,” the source explained.

US authorities renewed their request for his extradition in 2001 using another provisional arrest warrant. This time, Jamaican authorities reportedly frowned at the route taken by their counterparts and requested that the Americans send a formal request along with authenticated documents.

“We thought that it might be inappropriate to use a provisional warrant in the circumstances.”

According to the insider, there was no response from US authorities until January 9, 2007, when Jamaican officials received the requested documentation, along with a diplomatic note.

By September the following year, sources claim, Jamaican prosecutors prepared a draft authority to proceed that was reportedly sent to the justice ministry, during the tenure of then minister Dorothy Lightbourne, for her signature.

“But there was no response after that,” the source claimed, asserting that the extradition request remained in file thirteen until 2018 when a prosecutor stumbled upon it.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com