Three Americans facing trial for alleged conspiracy to kidnap children and murder their parents in “extraordinary” crimes in their homeland have lost an appeal against their extradition from Scotland.
Jennifer Amnott, Valerie Hayes and Gary Reburn are accused of conspiring to kidnap children and kill witnesses in a case that could result in life sentences.
In their fight against being returned to the US to stand trial, they claimed that a possible mandatory life sentence without parole for a lesser offense than murder amounted to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) under a Article that prevents inhuman and degrading treatment. .
It was argued that this was a highly disproportionate punishment that could not be reduced after its imposition.
The trio lost a legal battle in Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court over the decision to return them to Virginia to stand trial after their flight to Scotland, but they appealed the decision to three High Court judges.
Scotland’s highest ranking judge, Lord Justice General Lord Carloway, said: “The crimes alleged to have been committed by the appellants are extraordinary.
“All appellants are citizens of the United States of America. Mrs. Amnott and her husband met Mrs. Hayes in 2015. Mr. Reburn was Mrs. Hayes’s boyfriend at the time. The Amnotts were desperate to form a family.
“Mrs. Hayes said she had three children who had been ‘captured’ and were in the custody of two families in West Virginia. She told the Amnotts that if they helped her get her children back, they (the Amnotts) could stay with one.” of the other children of those families.
“Appellants and Mrs. Amnott formed a plan that involved traveling from Maryland to conduct prolonged and sophisticated surveillance of the homes where the two families lived, arranging for transportation, and obtaining firearms.
“They tried to achieve the armed entry to the house, the securing of the children and the murder of the parents with bullets. The plan was put into motion,” the judge said.
Lord Carloway said in a statement: “On July 29, 2018, the group approached the home of the first family in rural Dayton, West Virginia. To familiarize themselves with the layout, they entered while the family, including children two years, years and eight months respectively, were in the church.
“Later, during the hours of darkness, they approached the house again. Two of them were armed. The father opened the door, saw the firearms and tried to close the door. The group forced entry and secured the father in the basement, tying her wrists
“The mother had managed to escape and contacted the police. When the police arrived, only Mr. Amnott was still in the house, along with the father and their children. He held the father at gunpoint. He was arrested. The others were had gone. and, within days, he fled to Scotland,” the judge said.
A Virginia court issued warrants for his arrest in 2019.
Lawyers representing the trio argued that the sheriff had erred in their trial, even claiming that he was wrong in holding that the mandatory life sentence without parole they would face for conspiracy to murder, for a lesser offense than actual murder, was not. extremely disproportionate. .
But Lord Carloway, who heard the appeal with Lords Pentland and Matthews, said: “It is not possible to conclude that a life sentence without parole is grossly disproportionate, in terms of triggering a breach of Article 3 (of the ECHR), given the extreme seriousness of the crimes charged.
“If proven, it was a premeditated conspiracy to kidnap five children and murder their four parents. The plan had passed the preparation phase and had entered the perpetration phase when the police arrived.”
He said that although life sentences were not considered appropriate in Scotland, they are permitted in England and Wales and had been decided to comply with the ECHR as long as there was a possibility of review and prospect of release.
Prisoners in the US prison system could secure their release through compassionate dispositions and executive clemency.
Lord Carloway said: “It should require some obvious and serious form of ill-treatment to bar extradition to a country like the United States for the offenses of conspiracy to murder parents and rob their children.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.