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May 29, 2002

Wanted by U.S.; beats extradition on technicality

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Belizean businessman Kevin Morris is a free man tonight, following a successful appeal of his order to be extradited to the United States. Morris was arrested in Belize at the request of the D.E.A., who claimed that he conspired to traffic cocaine in February 2001. Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord had ordered Morris’s extradition to the United States to stand trail. However, Morris didn’t take the ruling lying down. He got himself a new lawyer, and decided to lodge an appeal. Defence attorney Dean Barrow says it was a flawed process that allowed Morris to avoid the extradition. News 5 spoke with Barrow and Morris after the announcement of today’s ruling by Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh.

Kevin Morris

“I feel very happy about the results. Thank God that this worked out for me, now I can stay in my country and move on with my life.”

Dean Barrow, Morris’s Attorney

“The bail that Kevin got from the Supreme Court from Justice Gonzalez was according to the Chief Justice, bail that ought not to have been given in that fashion. He was given bail on what is called a jail delivery, and the Chief Justice said extradition is peculiar and while you can get bail for extradition, it has to be done in a different way. The Magistrate has to say what counts he found made out, because it is only on those counts that if he went back to the U.S. the U.S. would be able to try him. And so the failure to list the offences or the counts that the Magistrate found made out, together with the failure to commit him to prison, as the law required, meant that the Magistrate’s decision was entirely without authority, the proceedings were flawed, and the Chief Justice had to discharge Kevin. Our greatest force was reserved for saying, he failed to follow the mandatory procedure that the law sets out after he had concluded that all counts that the U.S. alleged were made out.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“So the procedure was actually flawed.”

Dean Barrow

“Absolutely, and that’s what caused us to be able to get the discharge.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“For such person to actually hear that they will not be extradited, how difficult for somebody not to be extradited?”

Dean Barrow

“Extremely difficult. These are the hardest cases to win, and that is why none has been won before. To some extent we were lucky that there was this misstep on the part of the Magistrate. If you are going on the evidence and you’re arguing about sufficiency of the evidence, there is no way you’re going to succeed.”

Reports are that Morris used his position as a baggage handler for Continental Airlines in Houston to smuggle cocaine into Minnesota. He was arrested by U.S. authorities and was free on bail when he escaped back home to Belize. Morris will face prosecution should he ever return to U.S. soil.

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