David Swain's extradition hearing today
Swain is charged by British Virgin Island (BVI) authorities with allegedly murdering his wife, Shelley Arden Tyre, in 1999 while on a scuba diving vacation with her on the BVI island of Tortola. According to court documents, he is accused of intentionally causing her to drown in an underwater struggle.
Swain, identified as a Providence resident in the extradition papers, was arrested last week. He was brought to federal court and ordered detained without bail at the federal Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.
Swain said the day after his arrest that he would fight the extradition effort. He has been protesting his innocence since his late wife's parents filed a civil suit in 2002 against him to establish how the drowning occurred. A jury in the RI Superior Court civil trial found him guilty in 2006 of intentionally killing her with violence but only the BVI government could bring criminal charges.
Evidence and expert testimony was gathered for the civil case by J. Renn Olenn, of Warwick, a lawyer with a specialty in marine cases, on behalf of the parents, Richard and Lisa Tyre of Jamestown. Those items and documents were turned over after the civil trial here to BVI authorities. Tortola police also developed evidence and data after Swain left their country a few days after his wife's death.
Olenn said last week that he was not allowed to discuss the role that he would have in the criminal case against Swain. He said most of the experts and witnesses he presented at the civil trial have said they would be available and willing to testify in Tortola if they were to be called.
The Warwick lawyer explained that the extradition process was governed by a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom and that the criminal proceedings in Tortola would be conducted under British legal principles. He said British law is similar, but not completely the same, as that followed in the United States. If found guilty in Tortola, Swain would be subject to imprisonment there. The death penalty for murder in BVI was abolished in 1991.
For last week's proceedings, Swain was represented by a federal public defender who argued for his release on bail. The defender was assigned pending Swain's decision about getting a lawyer, the choice is expected to be made known in today's proceedings.
Federal Judge Lincoln Almond ordered Swain held without bail after prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker, autho- rized to act on behalf of the United Kingdom for the extradition proceedings, argued that Swain was a flight risk.
According to Tortola data, BVI is a British Crown territory; the legal and judicial system of the BVI is based on the English Common Law; Great Britain is responsible for the island's administration of justice; and the Governor of BVI represents the Queen and is responsible for administration of the courts as part of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court circuit.
While in a foreign country, according to embassy data, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.