Categorized | National News

Suspect’s Death Deemed “Unlawful Killing”

A four woman, one man jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” in the Coroner’s Inquest into Aaron Rolle’s death – leaving room for criminal charges to be brought against the two officers who were placed on administrative leave in relation to his death.

Rolle, 20, died on February 9 at the Southern Police Station.

Constables 2648 Carl Smith and 2126 Akiel Smith are on administrative leave in connection with Rolle’s custody death.

During the inquest, the pair admitted that they used a wooden baton to subdue Rolle as he allegedly tried to escape police custody on February 8.

It took jurors four hours to come with the four to one verdict.

Christina Galanos, who represents the Rolle Family, said the jury spoke loud and clear and by bringing a verdict that indicated unjustifiable force, the jury and the Bahamian public at large showed the members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force that if they cross the line, the public is going to tell them so.

“The wheels of justice are turning but it doesn’t stop here. Justice demands that this matter be taken further to its just conclusion, which means that the guilty persons should pay their just dues to society like everybody else,” she said.

“We look for the Office of the Attorney General to take the obvious and necessary steps to ensure that this matter is brought to a just conclusion. That is the only way that the Bahamian public could and would have confidence in the system.”

She added, “My assignment as defence counsel is to ensure that my clients are treated fairly in custody and to set an example so that all persons will be guaranteed protection while in police custody. I also advise them that they are to be respectful to all police officers. However, no matter how I advise my clients, the simple fact of the matter is that if we as a society ought to be safe and feel safe in police custody, all police officers must in turn consistently acknowledge and uphold our rights. That is the only way that the system will function properly.”

The attorney said she is hoping the Coroner’s Court will make recommendations to improve how suspects are treated while they are in custody.

“Recommendations not only in terms of prosecution but recommendations on how suspects are to be treated in custody, cameras to show what really happened and what occurred,” Ms. Galanos said.

The victim’s father, Godfrey Rolle, said he was happy about the outcome of the matter.

“I’m satisfied with the decision that they made. I thank my lawyer for doing a good job. This will give these police some kind of a doubt that when they do these jobs [with suspects] someone will fight for [the suspects],” he said.

“I can sleep better now.”

Elmer Miller, Aaron’s aunt, said he was just like a son to her.

“I am very pleased that my lawyer did a good job and that justice has been done,” she said.

But the matter is not over for Lennox Coleby, who represents the police officers.

He told reporters that the officers were placed at a disadvantage when Acting Coroner Jeanine Weech Gomez did not instruct the jury to return an open verdict.

“If the jury accept that yes there is sufficient evidence before the court to show that Aaron was injured before coming into custody then they were free to come in with an open verdict to say that there is no telling who was responsible,” Mr. Coleby said.

The attorney said his clients are not happy but they stand by their position.

“They maintain that there was nothing that they did when Aaron Rolle tried to escape police custody and the force that they used on him was consistent with their training, was consistent with the law and they are satisfied that they had not injured him to the extent that he should die,” Mr. Coleby said.

The attorney said the officers are now free to return to work, but that is decision that has to be made by administration in the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

“We maintain that he was injured before he got into custody. Who unlawfully killed him? The jury didn’t say. We have to make an assessment of what the verdict means for my clients and that involves communication with the Office of the Attorney General, communication with the clients and communication with the coroner after she would have made her recommendations. And then we can do several things – appeal or we can go by judicial review to see what is the officer’s right or the right of the police organisation with the failure to put before the jury an open verdict,” Mr. Coleby said.

Meantime Acting Coroner Weech Gomez is expected to make her recommendations on May 14.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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