Liberia: Govt’s Pathologist to Examine Odell Sherman Corpse amid Disapproval from Family
Monrovia – The family of Odell Sherman has threatened to protest against the conduct of an autopsy on the corpse of the 21-year-old, who died at the ELWA Hospital after she reportedly found unconscious at the home of Rev. Emmanuel Giddings in Duazhon, Margibi County.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
The caveat from the family comes as a government pathologist prepares to examine the body on Wednesday, July 3 at the JFK Hospital in Monrovia.
The body of the deceased is currently at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor along the Somalia Drive, Gardnesville Township.
The autopsy is expected to establish the cause of death as the current death certificate produced by the hospital is sparking “confusion,” the police said in early June.
Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation Wesseh A. Wesseh told FrontPageAfrica on Tuesday that the family has brought into the country a “medical consultant who is not a pathologist” but they have insisted that he conducts the autopsy.
“We told them that he can come and monitor the autopsy so as to make it more transparent, but the family insists that they don’t trust the process and want the consultant to do the autopsy,” says Assistant Minister Wesseh.
“We have said no; that their consultant cannot carry out the process because doing that will dilute the whole process. He doesn’t have a license so how can he do an autopsy?”
But the family has slammed the government’s assertion, arguing that the US-based doctor came into the country with all of his documents but he has been rejected because he doesn’t have a license to practice in the country.
Alphonso Sherman, father of the late Odell, told FrontPageAfrica via mobile phone on Tuesday that the government might be up to something sinister.
“That’s something they are planning to do and we will not accept it. They will not touch our daughter tomorrow,” Mr. Sherman said.
“Tomorrow we will protest, nobody will touch our daughter. will not allow them to touch our daughter until the pathologist that we brought in is allowed to work with them.”
Sherman insists that his family does not trust the government’s handling of the investigation and will resist any further exclusive investigation of the corpse by the government.
“They played with the crime scene, [and] up to now since we wrote the Justice Ministry and requested the call log – the call she received before she went to Rev. Giddings yard – but they have refused.
“We don’t trust the government alone to do anything with our daughter’s body. We are not going to allow them to touch the body until our own independent man we sent for be there and all of them conduct the autopsy.”
Meanwhile, Minister Wesseh said the government had earlier engaged the family since they were bereaved; however, he stressed that the state reserves the authority to investigate and prosecute suspicious death without the involvement of the family.
“We know that the Liberian law under the criminal procedural law of Liberia does not say that the family or anybody should witness an autopsy be conducted,” he said.
“The law says that a coroner should examine the body but if the coroner is not a medical doctor, you should summon a pathologist.”
Chapter 7.4 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia states: “The coroner may, if he is unable to ascertain the cause of death by preliminary examination, perform, if he is a competent medical practitioner, or authorize to be performed by a competent medical practitioner, an autopsy on the body of the deceased for the purpose of determining the cause and circumstances of death.
“Every such autopsy must be witnessed by two credible and discreet residents of the county, territory, or district in which it is performed, and the coroner shall have the power to compel their attendance by subpoena.”
Meanwhile, Minister Wesseh disclosed that the government’s pathologist expected to examine the body was sponsored by the UNDP, trained in Ghana for four years and has been conducting autopsy over the last couple of years in the country.
Wesseh, who also confirmed that the family has ardently rejected any autopsy that will be conducted by the government, says the autopsy will go on Wednesday as planned.
“The family cannot control the government on how to conduct the autopsy because crimes are committed against the state and the government has a duty to investigate crimes,” he said.
The death of Odell Sherman in late May 2019 following the completion of the high school regional exams has created suspicion and increased calls for the government to do more in curbing violence against women.
Many activists including feminist movements in Monrovia amplified calls for proper investigation into the circumstances leading to the demise of the Odell.
Police have earlier announced that they have spoken with many persons of interest but they were released to their lawyers. The police, however, said statements taken have not shown any link to the incident.
Rev. Giddings, the owner of the home where Odell reportedly went unconscious before her death, has since been declared a “person of interest” by the police although he has not been officially charged.
There were six others undergoing investigation including a man identified as Abraham, who reportedly helped to put the unconscious Odell in a vehicle to be taken to hospital.