Pathologist slammed for concluding Shemar Weekes killed himself
The coroner probing the death of 12-year-old Shemar Weekes today ruled that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a crime had taken place.
As a result, Manila Renee has sent the case back to the police for further investigation, concluding that it was better suited to be handled by a criminal jurisdiction.
Renee said in a three-hour presentation that a coroner was normally required to rule a matter an accident but this case did not allow for such a verdict.
Shemar was found hanging at his Fryers Well, St Lucy home on May 14 last year. His death was ruled a suicide by a pathologist.
However, the coroner today shredded the pathologist, dismissing his conclusion as a “fallacy” and strange.
“The fallacy of the forensic pathologist’s opinion that the manner [in which Shemar died] was suicidal is evident in the case where a noose is placed around the head of a deceased person before realization of that action by the victim.
“Then there is the case where a person is tricked into putting a noose around their head, or perhaps during some sexual game . . . the fact there is a noose around somebody’s head and they died from asphyxia, does not mean it is suicide,” emphasized the magistrate.
She contended that suicide required intention to kill oneself, and that such must be established beyond a reasonable doubt after hearing all the evidence.
Renee argued that a pathologist was not the one to determine whether or not someone was murdered or the death was an accident, stressing that such conclusions were the purview of a judge or jury who would have been privy to all the facts of a case.
Renee added that the pathologist was only to report what he saw during his examination, and that she accepted that a court’s decision could be influenced by the aspect of the medical expert’s testimony in which he concluded that the child killed himself because of an absence of marks of violence or foreign substance in his stomach.
However the coroner was not convinced that the specialist doctor was on solid ground in submitting his additional findings to support his conclusion.
“I could understand those two, that you take the two of those into consideration . . . the fact that you didn’t see any injuries to suggest there was a struggle or that the person not ingesting anything toxic that could knock them out, especially the fact that he is 5’ 8’’, he is a big boy. I could understand them influencing a court coming to some decision. But the other two that he referenced, I am not so certain,” she said.
The other factors she extracted from the doctor’s testimony were an absence of haemorrhaging in the eyes indicating strangulation and the absence of injury in and around the mouth that would suggest suffocation.
While rejecting that portion of the doctor’s evidence, the coroner offered what she saw as a more plausible explanation in Shemar’s case.
“Another example is where a child places a noose around his head in circumstances where an intervention is expected . . . it cannot be ruled a suicide because there is no intention to die. If there is no intention to die how can it be suicide? Suicide requires intention such as a child, especially if not home alone . . . has a reasonable expectation to be saved. So the pathologist writing suicide, that is a strange [conclusion] . . . I have never seen it.
“This is like a pathologist report saying ‘murder, accident,’” the coroner stated.
Weekes broke down in tears when the coroner was describing the noose by which the boy is alleged to have used to kill himself.
The coroner suggested that the court could not allow the pathologist to determine its outcome on the method of death, “especially one [pathologist] that does not even know a serious scar”. This was in reference to a scar which Shemar’s great aunt had testified was on the boy’s head and which the mother said in her statement was self-inflicted.
Renee also drew attention to 15 injuries found on Shemar’s body, which, according to the pathologist, could be caused through the normal course of play but for which he did not rule out abuse.
In analyzing the evidence of the child’s mother and stepfather, the magistrate was especially critical of the “discrepancies, inconsistences, contradictions and variations” regarding the circumstances surrounding his death, particularly the timeliness and the possibility of him being saved.
In her police statement, the mother said she first contacted the boy’s stepfather during the hour-long 7 p.m. television news about finding him hanging, but the stepfather’s evidence put the time at around 8.30 p.m. The magistrate also told the inquest that when Shawn Greaves arrived at the house around 9.07 p.m. that fateful night, Shemar still had a pulse.
Greaves’ evidence, which was read today by the coroner, revealed that he called the ambulance at around 9.10 p.m., but the station sergeant in charge of emergency dispatch at police operations control testified this morning that they first received a call from Greaves at 9.29 p.m. The coroner also came down hard on the way the police carried out their initial investigations, expressing concern that officers did not take an oral statement on the night from Greaves, or from Shemar’s younger brother; not did they check the mobile phones of Greaves and the mother, who were communicating by text regarding the child’s fate and a request for help rather talking to each other on the phone.
She also criticized the Child Care Board officer from the abuse unit who was assigned to Shemar’s case, as well as the board itself. Not only did she knock the officer for not being aggressive enough in following through with her investigations, but felt that because of the seriousness of the complaints made by the great aunt over time, Shemar should have been removed from the home pending the outcome of the probe by the child protection agency.
The coroner explained that it was possible the matter could return to her and on that basis she would not give a final verdict.