Feed on

The Register-Herald newspaper in Beckley, West Virginia, reported on 18 Aug 07:-

Exoo to remain jailed in extradition case

By Matthew Hill, Register-Herald Reporter

A U.S. District Court magistrate judge Friday refrained from issuing a ruling in what he described as a “simply extraordinary” extradition case — that of George Exoo, the former Beckley Unitarian minister sought by Irish authorities for his alleged assistance in the suicide of a woman in Ireland five years ago.

Magistrate Judge Clarke VanDervort also decided against ruling on a motion for bond by Exoo’s federal public defender, Charleston lawyer Edward Weis, essentially continuing Exoo’s incarceration at South Central Regional Jail.

“I don’t see being anywhere near reaching a conclusion on this a week from now,” VanDervort declared about deciding whether to allow Irish authorities to extradite Exoo, 64, to the Emerald Isle. According to VanDervort, the case is somewhat unprecedented. He referred to a vaguely similar case in 1977.

VanDervort took under consideration lengthy arguments by both Weis and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Wright at the three-hour hearing.

Wright pressed his case by asserting that a simple majority of states in America must have laws that would prohibit assisted suicide, in one form or another, in order for Exoo to be extradited to Ireland. A total of 42 states, Wright claimed, have laws that would result in Exoo’s actions constituting a crime. Wright noted the tally includes “a preponderance of the states” and that Weis’ reference to solely federal law in determining extradition eligibility “would be pointless.”

Weis countered that treaties apply to the “laws of the contracting parties” — in this case, Ireland and the United States, which have enjoyed an extradition treaty between them since 1983. Weis added his client did not supply any of the material for Rosemary Toole’s suicide.

“She did it all herself,” he said. “Committing suicide is not a crime. Aiding and abetting something that’s not a crime is not a crime. It is clear that Ms. Toole wanted to die. She already knew how to do it. She had tried before. The most he (Exoo) did was aid. He did not cause.”

Weis cited adultery and homosexuality as examples of activities that were once proscribed by Western societies but are now outside the purview of the law. He cited assisted suicide as another example of an activity in the midst of such a transition.

“(The treaty) should be interpreted broadly to maximize the intent of the parties,” Wright argued. “We’re talking here about probable cause, not beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Exoo goes by the title of ‘final-exit counselor.’ There’s an industry for these people, your honor. The fact that they don’t advertise in The New York Times or the Yellow Pages shows how controversial the subject is.”

VanDervort observed there is not a consensus in, and among, the United States that what Exoo purportedly did was a crime. The judge also brought up the question of when such laws went into effect and how that could affect Exoo’s extraditionary fate. For example, would such prohibitions have to have been in effect before 2002 or simply today?

Weis also attempted to demonstrate that Exoo did not perform any physical act to assist with the suicide. According to Wright, Exoo pulled a cigarette from Toole’s mouth after she had ingested a quantity of narcotics and told her that “it’s time now” to pull the plastic bag over her head and breathe in the helium that would bring about her demise.

“(Exoo) didn’t notify authorities or anyone else. He just left the country,” Wright said, adding Exoo reportedly declared afterward, “We’re going to get the hell out of Dodge.”

Wright presented some Internet articles and called an FBI special agent to the witness stand Friday. Special agent Michael Yansick was involved in Exoo’s arrest June 25 and said he had a conversation with Exoo shortly thereafter.

According to Yansick, Exoo told him he would not return to Ireland to help someone commit suicide but would do so in Switzerland or the United States. Exoo reportedly told Yansick that Toole had enough helium “to kill a cow” and that he would starve himself to death via a hunger strike before facing charges in Ireland.

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.

VanDervort did not set any further court dates.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.