Man wanted over Florida drugs murder loses battle to stay in NI

An American man wanted over a drugs-related killing in Florida has lost his four-year legal battle against extradition from Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:38 pm
The High Court in Belfast

Jonah Horne claimed he could be subjected to inhuman prison conditions if ordered to return to the United States.

Lawyers for the 26-year-old also contended there was a risk of facing the death penalty or spending the rest of his life behind bars.

But judges at the High Court in Belfast rejected his case today after citing assurances from US authorities that no such sentences will be imposed.

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Lord Justice McCloskey said: “The evidence establishes unequivocally that under Florida law the death sentence cannot be imposed for this offence.”

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

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

Since being arrested in Lisburn, Co Antrim back in March 2017, Horne has remained in custody amid a protracted legal battle to have him returned to the United States.

He lodged an appeal after the Home Secretary decided last year that he should be extradited.

Defence lawyers challenged the move on human rights grounds, arguing that he could be at risk of a whole life sentence or the death penalty if ultimately charged and convicted of first degree murder.

However, the court heard correspondence from the Office of the State Attorney at Palm Beach County, Florida contained an assurance that no term of imprisonment greater than 40 years imprisonment would be sought.

Lord Justice McCloskey described those grounds of challenge raised by Horne as “unsustainable”.

He said “This aspect of the appellant’s case is confounded by a combination of the principle of mutual trust and confidence and an evidentially barren foundation characterised by conjecture.”

Horne also claimed that he could be subject to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment due to the state of Florida jails.

He relied on evidence from a professor of criminal justice who alleged prison conditions are among the worst in the United States, with a long history of attacks on inmates, sexual assaults, inadequate medical care, overcrowding, strip searches and solitary confinement.

However, Lord Justice McCloskey identified multiple shortcomings in the professor’s affidavit.

Backing the original findings in the case, he said: “Whereas prison conditions in Florida are harsh there have been improvements.”

The judge confirmed: “The appellant’s case must fail accordingly.”