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The Register-Herald in Beckley, West Virginia, reported 30 June 07:-

Ex-minister remains jailed

By Matthew Hill, Register-Herald Reporter

— A former Beckley Unitarian minister was ordered Friday to remain incarcerated at Southern Regional Jail until a hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to Ireland — where he is wanted for allegedly assisting a woman there with her suicide five years ago — takes place.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Clarke VanDervort added the caveat that he wants to expedite the process as much as possible between Friday’s detention hearing and an extradition hearing for George Exoo, 64. Although a firm date was not scheduled for the extradition hearing due to conflicting schedules among the judge and attorneys for both sides, the first week of August was mentioned as a distinct possibility.

“I would like to make a final decision and get to final proceedings as soon as possible. I would like to regard time as of the essence,” VanDervort declared.

While it was too late to alter the ruling, he acknowledged and expressed verbal appreciation for a handful of Exoo supporters who appeared ready and willing to offer property and/or money as bond for Exoo. Exoo, wearing an orange SRJ jumpsuit and ankle-cuffs, smiled and waved to them during the hearing.

VanDervort ended up ruling on the side of what he termed a liberal construction of the extradition treaty that has existed between the United States and Ireland since 1983.

“In view of the requirement that the court liberally construe the treaty, the court will take the road of whatever supports the process for proceeding. There are three levels, and the circumstances in this case require considering the third point,” he said, referring to whether a majority of states around the country have laws criminalizing assisted suicide. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Wright’s research, they do.

Charleston lawyer Edward Weis, Exoo’s federal public defender, had tried to make the argument that federal law must explicitly outlaw the activity for his client to remain detained and possibly be extradited.

“Laws differ from state to state,” Weis asserted. “This is not a majoritorian question. Dual criminality requires either federal or West Virginia criminality, not a majority of states.”

Wright countered that the detention hearing was still too early in the process to be a stage for arguing the merits or flaws of the treaty itself.

“Our position is that this is the law. Let’s rule on detention, and then examine the merits at a full-blown extradition hearing. Extradition treaties are to be construed liberally, so as to enhance or enforce the treaty. We can’t allow someone in West Virginia (which has no specific statute against euthanasia) or Oregon (where assisted suicide is legal) to escape, whereas someone from Ohio or Texas could not,” he said.

Probability of success (on Exoo’s part) was raised by the judge as a special circumstance in the case that was not met by Weis. “Had he (Exoo) presented witnesses for an alibi or shown a probability of success on the basis of legal theories, while there may be some possibility of success, it would not be a high probability,” VanDervort stated, observing earlier that Weis’ arguments seemed to be based more on legal, rather than factual, theories.

Wright also claimed Exoo was not likely to voluntarily surrender himself to Irish authorities if released and then confronted with extradition.
Exoo was arrested by federal authorities on Monday in connection with his purported participation in Ireland’s first-ever assisted suicide.
Rosemary Toole, 49, reportedly overdosed on drugs and breathed helium through a plastic bag until she died on Jan. 25, 2002, in Dublin. Investigators believe Exoo was paid $6,000 to participate in the woman’s death. Toole is said to have spent more than a year contacting right-to-die representatives.
Exoo has denied assisting in the suicide, but has admitted he was present when the woman ended her life.
Irish authorities have been involved from the inception of the case in keeping abreast of the American investigation.
Bryan O’Connell, an Irish reporter, said in 2002 that Exoo could face stiff penalties if convicted.
In Ireland, anyone caught “aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring the suicide of another” is guilty of a felony and can be jailed up to 14 years, according to a law enacted there in 1993.
Irish authorities began formally seeking Exoo’s extradition in 2004.

For George Exoo’s life and story, please visit his ‘Compassionate Chaplaincy’


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