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Lawyer assigned to marshal police shooting inquests

A lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been assigned to the Coroner’s Court, paving the way for inquests into police-involved killings to resume, The Nassau Guardian can reveal.

The appointment comes weeks after Chief Justice Sir Ian Winder implored the director of public prosecutions to address the issue, so that the Coroner’s Court could “properly fulfill its mandate in respect to all deaths”.

The new marshal was introduced to Acting Coroner Kara Turnquest-Deveaux last week.

The court resumed inquests into other suspicious deaths in 2021 following a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, inquiries into police-involved deaths remained in limbo due to a lack of a lawyer to present the evidence. Police officers generally marshal the evidence in other inquests.

However, there is still no dedicated coroner since former Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez was appointed as a Supreme Court judge in 2021. The acting coroner’s other duties include presiding over the Juvenile Court and traveling to Eleuthera to hear cases.

According to Winder, it is hoped that the Judicial and Legal Services Commission will permanently fill the post soon.

The court completed 35 police-involved inquests from 2003 through February 2020.

Jurors returned 20 lawful killing verdicts and six unlawful killing verdicts during that period, according to data from the Coroner’s Court.

Meanwhile, jurors could not reach a decision in five cases, returned self-defense verdicts in two cases, found justifiable homicide in one case, and an accidental verdict in another.

An inquest does not determine civil or criminal liability but examines the circumstances of a person’s death. Additionally, the Coroner’s Court does not have a team of independent investigators.

An inquest is not held in cases where there is clear cut evidence of a crime.

Prosecutors did not hold an inquest after the 2007 fatal shooting of Aschol Deon Rolle by Officer Aubrey Carlston Darling. Instead, he was charged with manslaughter and convicted of the offense in 2017 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Last year, prosecutors charged officers Archibald Miller Jr., Thomas Thurston Jr. and Lee Dormeus with murder concerning the November 13, 2021 shooting death of Danrico Carey in Nassau Village. Officer Kevin Greenslade faces a charge of causing dangerous harm in respect to the same incident.

On Friday, Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander said there were 16 police-involved shootings in 2022. He said two of those shootings were fatal.

There were 20 police-involved shootings in 2021.