By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE appeal of the “unlawful killing” verdict in the matter of Aaron Rolle, who died in police custody last year, will be heard in the Supreme Court, The Tribune understands.
According to sources close to the matter, the case for appeal was made on the grounds that the Acting Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez overstepped her judicial authority during her direction of the jury.
Yesterday, Christina Galanos, attorney for Rolle’s family, renewed concerns over the lack of prioritisation of the case despite assurances from the Attorney General that the matter would be fast tracked.
“This matter needs to move forward,” Ms Galanos said. “If an appeal has been lodged, then the necessary steps need to be taken to have the matter heard. This changes nothing for the family. The filing of an appeal is not the decision being overturned.
“It still stands, so that’s neither here nor there with the (Rolle’s) family. It says nothing, let’s see what the Supreme Court has to say about it. The death is still, according to the Coroner’s Court, unlawful.”
The Coroner’s Court does not determine guilt or make any findings or suggestions of criminal, civil, or disciplinary liability. The role of the court is to determine who the deceased was, how the deceased died, when, where, and by what means.
Rolle, 20, died at the Southern Police Station on February 8, 2013. He was taken into custody for questioning in connection to armed robbery and escape.
A pathologist’s report concluded that Rolle died from haemorrhaging and a ruptured intestine, caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.
On May 7, 2013, a four woman and one man jury delivered a 4-1 verdict in the coroner’s inquest of Rolle’s death.
The jury found that Rolle’s death was an “unlawful killing” after they were instructed by Ms Weech-Gomez to determine whether they found the force used against Rolle while in custody was justifiable.
Coroner Weech-Gomez told the jury if they found the force used against Rolle was justifiable to return a verdict of lawful killing and if they found the force used to be unjustifiable, to return a verdict of unlawful killing.
Following the verdict, Lennox Coleby, who represented the officers who testified that “force” was used on Rolle, said his clients were put at a disadvantage when the coroner “failed to put the jury to an open verdict”.
Mr Coleby said: “If the jury accepts that yes, there is sufficient evidence before the court to show that Aaron was injured before coming into custody then they are free to come with an open verdict because there is no telling who is responsible.”
Yesterday, an official within the Attorney General’s Office explained that the verdict was unlawful because it had criminal implications, adding that a coroner does not have legal authority to direct the jury to give such a determination.
The Tribune was unable to confirm up to press time whether or not a date has been set for the appeal.