Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Yazeed Essa

A Fight For Extradition Rivaling Roman Polanski

Bill Mason
Bill Mason
Starting in November 2006, Essa began a protracted legal battle. For nearly three years, his lawyers pushed back against all requests to return him to the U.S.

Despite Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason repeatedly stressing to the press, "we're not seeking the death penalty," Essa's lawyer, Larry Zukerman, told the AP that the charges could be amended anytime to include the death penalty. Essa at that time wasn't being charged with first degree murder, but aggravated murder, which doesn't include the death penalty as a sentence.

Finally in June 2007, over two years after the murder, a court in Cyprus ruled that Essa could be sent to the U.S.

But Essa dug in his heels and fought back, filing an appeal in February 2008.

"Our client has instructed us to seek recourse to the European Court of Human Rights if this appeal is rejected," lawyer Marios Georgiou told The Associated Press.

Map of eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus locator.
Map of eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus locator.

But nearly 10 months later, in December 2008, Essa dropped his appeal. He would be coming home.

The next month he was returned to the U.S. It was nearly four years since his disappearance. But the long, arduous road to justice was not yet over. First, his court date was continuously postponed because, it turned out, prosecutors were trying to cut a deal with his siblings, Firas and his sister Runa Ighneim.

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