New York's highest court yesterday refused to block the extradition of Joan Little, a black fugitive who says she would rather die than return to North Carolina to finish a burglary sentence. The court gave her lawyers 10 days to appeal in her home state.

Little, 24, attracted national attention two years ago when she was acquitted of murdering a white jailer who she said attacked her sexually.

After her acquittal Little escaped Oct.15 from a prison in Raleigh where she was serving 7 to 10 years for breaking and entering. She was arrested in New York City Dec. 17.

North Carolina officials disputed Little's claim that her life will be in danger if she is extradited. They she would be as safe as any other prisoner in the state penal system.

The unanimous decision in the state Court of Appeals exhausts Little's chances in New York courts. Her only remaining avenues of appeal are in federal courts or North Carolina courts.

Little's attorney, William Kunstler, had been reluctant to go to court in the South. He claimed to have evidence of a conspiracy to murder his client if she were returned to prison in North Carolina.