Drugs killing suspect is to face full US extradition hearing

A man wanted over a drugs-related killing in the United States has been dealt a new blow in his legal fight against extradition from Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 5:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 5:23 pm
Laganside court complex in Belfast city centre. A judge refused expert witness status to the author of a report alleging a culture of murder and brutality within Florida's prison system

Jonah Horne was seeking to introduce fresh evidence to back claims he could be exposed to the risk of sexual and physical violence in a Florida jail.

But the High Court in Belfast refused expert witness status to the author of a report alleging a rampant culture of murder and brutality within the state’s prison system.

Lord Justice McCloskey held: “The declaration is replete with hyperbole.”

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Horne, 26, is being sought on a charge of second degree murder with a firearm.

He is alleged to have shot 25-year-old Jacob Walsh during a drugs dispute at North Military Trail, Boca Raton on June 7, 2016.

Horne was arrested in Lisburn, Co Antrim back in March 2017 and remains in custody amid a protracted legal battle to have him returned to the United States.

As part of an appeal against extradition, his lawyers wanted to introduce a report by Paul Wright, director of the US-based Human Rights Defense Center.

Mr Wright appeared by video-link from America at a hearing to determine if his document should be admitted as expert testimony.

He alleged widespread violence within the Florida prison system, with an abnormally high death rates from murder, suicide and medical neglect.

His report concluded: “Mr Horne faces substantial risk of inhuman and degrading treatment, to include physical violence, sexual assault, solitary confinement and discrimination if he is imprisoned in the Florida Department of Correction (FDOC) which is both incapable and unwilling to guarantee the safety of any of the prisoners in its care.”

During the hearing Mr Wright described himself as a leading expert on the American criminal justice system.

He spent 16 years behind bars in Washington State following a conviction for murder, but was never an inmate at any penitential institution in Florida.

Ruling on the application to admit Mr Wright’s report as fresh evidence, Lord Justice McCloskey identified no attempt to discriminate between assertion and fact.

“Arguably the stand out illustration of this is his bare claim that every one of the 320 ‘natural’ deaths in the FDOC prison system in the fiscal year 2019/2020 was due to ‘medical neglect’,” the judge said.

“This is an extraordinary claim in the absence of a scintilla of supporting evidence.”

He also highlighted Mr Wright’s further allegation that the jails are “notorious for employing doctors with suspended licences or no licences who have killed and sexually abused their patients to the point that only the prison system will hire them”.

Lord Justice McCloskey stated: “While this claim appears inherently improbable, if it has any semblance of accuracy substantiating it with appropriate supporting medical or other evidence is what this court would have expected: there is none.”

Describing him as an advocate and activist for prisoners, the judge concluded: “Mr Wright must be declined the accreditation of expert witness.”

A full hearing of Horne’s appeal against extradition is listed for hearing later this month