Mark Seawell to Learn Fate in Extradition Case Next Week
The brothers Seawell – Mark, Gary and Duane – have been a staple of Belizean newscasts for more than a decade now. That’s how long they have been fighting extradition to the United States. Authorities from Ohio allege that they ran a marijuana and cocaine business involving so-called “shoe mules” between 1994 and 1997, when they were indicted. Young college students visited Cancun, all expenses paid, and briefly detoured to Belize, where they picked up and innocuously carried back tennis shoes with a kilogram of the white powder hidden in the soles. The youngest Seawell brother, Duane, is imprisoned since 2007 after a guilty plea in a Miami court. Middle brother Gary, caught in Esperanza, Cayo District, three years later, was freed following six years of litigation ending in the Court of Appeal last November. Today, attorneys for Mark, the eldest and longest incarcerated of the trio, said they hope to repeat the same strategy in the Supreme Court, as Aaron Humes reports.
Ten years ago this past February fifteenth, Mark Seawell was picked up at his home in the Belama area. He has been in jail ever since, fighting extradition to the United States of America. But despite being under an order of extradition since 2011, all hope is not lost, especially after the near-miracle that brother Gary received last November. Anthony Sylvestre and British colleague Ben Cooper convinced the Court of Appeal that no valid committal warrant existed for Gary, and the one presented after the fact was severely defective. They hope that the same arguments will work for his older brother.
Anthony Sylvestre, Attorney for Mark Seawell
“You will recall that Gary Seawell, on his appeal to the Court of Appeal, [brought up] the question of the validity of the warrant. When somebody is actually taken out of circulation, is arrested and ordered to go to prison, there has to actually be an order, it’s called a warrant. At the time it was shown that the warrant upon which Gary was being held at prison was defective, and therefore his detention was unlawful. We are now asking the Honorable Chief Justice to hear arguments on a similar point – the validity of the warrant for Mark Seawell.”
The arguments are preliminary and concern the hearing of new evidence in addition to that which is already before the court in Mark Seawell’s habeas corpus hearing – which Sylvestre says Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin must still give a decision on. But it’s possible that this may be enough, co-attorney Bryan Neal noted, to overturn the entire affair.
“In respect to the validity of a warrant, it has to have certain matters and certain factors set out; the Extradition Act requires that. And after reviewing Mark’s warrant, we are of the view that there are similar deficiencies in it which we would wish to put before the court and show the court, and in that regard have the matter be dispensed with and disposed of.”
“Are you still awaiting a decision on the habeas corpus application?”
“We have made this application, so the matter therefore is still before the court.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have made this application, so the matter is still before the court. So clearly the court cannot give its decision then.”
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Mark Seawell
“What we are saying now is that, in the interest of Justice, for the Chief Justice: look at the fresh principles of law that arose in the Court of Appeal, consider them, and put them in a bundle and make a decision.”
“Those will be binding on this Court because that is a senior court to this Court?”
“That is so; the doctrine of judicial precedence would say that he has to give some regard to what was said, and our position is that the same flaws that existed with Gary Seawell exist with Mark Seawell; so why go [to] the Court of Appeal, keep this man in jail [for] more years for something that inevitably he will walk home free in short order?”
The attorneys would not consider at this time exploring any worst-case scenario; they are reasonably confident that their client may be on his way home next Tuesday. But that is for Chief Justice Benjamin to decide. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
A decision will be given on March seventh. Today’s hearing was held in-camera, without the presence of reporters.