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US man held in Northern Ireland over Florida murder faces renewed extradition threat

Jonah Horne

An American man arrested in Co Antrim over a drugs-related murder in Florida is facing a renewed threat of extradition.

High Court judges overturned a decision to end proceedings against Jonah Horne after rejecting claims he could spend the rest of his life in jail if found guilty.

Home Office officials must now decide if they will press to have the 25-year-old returned to the United States.

Horne, who remains in custody in Northern Ireland, is being sought in connection with the fatal shooting of Jacob Walsh nearly four years ago.

Mr Walsh, 25, was shot outside apartments at North Military Trail, Boca Raton on June 7, 2016.

His killing was associated with an apparent drug deal, according to reports at the time.

A previous court heard claims that Horne's DNA, video and witness evidence links him to the murder, with the victim's blood said to have been found on a vehicle connected to the wanted man.

He was detained under a provisional warrant at a house on Drumard Drive, Lisburn in March 2017.

Since then, however, he has been fighting attempts to have him returned to the US.

His lawyers have denied that he is a fugitive who fled following the fatal shooting.

Instead, they contended, he fell in love with a woman from Northern Ireland and travelled to be with her.

Central to his case was the uncertainty surrounding any assurance from the Governor of Florida that he would serve no more than 40 years in prison if ultimately found guilty.

In March last year a judge in Belfast ruled that the extradition proceedings against him should be discharged on the ground that the American state's clemency and commutation system is inadequate.

US authorities mounted a High Court appeal against that decision in a further attempt to secure Horne's return over his alleged role in the murder.

The possibility of President Donald Trump personally intervening in the case was explored at one point in the hearing.

Ultimately, however, the two appeal judges quashed the decision to discharge proceedings.

Sir Donnell Deeny ruled that the risk of a whole life sentence if Horne was ever convicted of second degree murder is "very slight and most unlikely."

He said: "We consider the possibility of that whole life sentence being maintained on appeal and after consideration by the Governor of Florida and the President of the United States to be wholly negligible.

"We do not consider therefore that there is a real risk... of this man being subjected to cruel or inhumane and degrading treatment by suffering a whole life irreducible sentence."

Belfast Telegraph