Portugal will not extradite a fugitive American murderer and hijacker who was seized last year near Lisbon, his Portuguese lawyer said on Thursday, after a final deadline passed last week for the United States to file an appeal.
American officials had sought to have the fugitive, George Wright, returned to finish a 15-to-30-year murder sentence that he was serving when he escaped from prison in 1970, and to face charges for a hijacking two years later. Mr. Wright has admitted commandeering a Delta Air Lines DC-8 with several others and demanding a $1 million ransom.
Mr. Wright’s lawyer, Manuel Luis Ferreira, said on Thursday that Portuguese judicial officials had told him the case was effectively over. He said the United States had “exhausted every appeal here in the Portuguese system” after missing a deadline for taking the case to a constitutional court last week.
On Wednesday, a senior judge of that tribunal, Luis Maria Vaz das Neves, told The Associated Press, “The case is now closed.” He said that for the United States to pursue the case further, it would have to find other grounds for having Mr. Wright sent back.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department confirmed that it had decided not to appeal. Still, in an e-mail, she said, “We are disappointed with the outcome.”
Mr. Wright’s odyssey began in 1962, when he was convicted of murder in New Jersey. He was accused of taking part in an armed robbery in which a gas station owner, a decorated World War II veteran, was killed.
Mr. Wright escaped from a state prison in 1970, and two years later, dressed as a priest, he helped hijack a flight from Detroit to Miami. The five hijackers demanded that the plane be flown to Algeria. Along the way, Mr. Wright pulled a gun from a hollowed-out Bible he was carrying and held it to a flight attendant’s head.
The captain of the flight recalled last year that Mr. Wright had issued the ransom demand, saying, “If that money is not here by 2 o’clock, I’m going to start throwing a dead body out the door every minute after 2 o’clock.”
Mr. Wright was arrested on Sept. 28 in Casas Novas, a village about 25 miles from Lisbon, where he had lived for more than 15 years under the name José Luís Jorge dos Santos. He was tracked down by a government task force set up to find fugitives from New York and New Jersey. Investigators had matched a fingerprint from Mr. Wright’s arrest on the 1962 murder charge to the fingerprint on the Portuguese identity card issued under the dos Santos name.
In November, a Portuguese court denied an American request to have him extradited.
Mr. Ferreira said on Thursday that Mr. Wright was “happy” at the outcome of the case. “He is at peace with himself and the law,” he said. “He is thinking of writing a book or making a film. He wants to explain all his life.”