December 11, 2009
Alexander’s inquest closed to public

The long awaited coroner’s inquest into the death of Kemasha “Suicide” Alexander will not be open to the general public.{{more}}

At the start of the enquiry on Tuesday, Magistrate Lester Caesar, the coroner presiding over the inquest, instructed the persons seated at the Marriaqua Magistrate’s Court to leave.

Caesar told those present that the matter was not a public hearing. Among those asked to leave were a newspaper reporter, a representative from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Jomo Thomas, the lawyer representing the family of Kemasha Alexander.

Members of the jury and the court’s police officers were the only ones allowed to remain in the court for the inquest.

Thomas told Searchlight that while he acknowledged that it was entirely within the Coroner’s power to determine who should be allowed to witness the inquest, he felt that in the interest of justice, he should be allowed to “witness the brief”. After saying as much before leaving the courtroom, Thomas said the coroner responded by saying he was “wasting the court’s time.”

Family members and police officers were called as witnesses on Tuesday.

When contacted, a legal practitioner familiar with the conduct of coroner’s inquests told Searchlight that according to the Coroner’s Act, the coroner is in charge of the inquest and has the power to determine if to open the inquest to the public. The practitioner, however, said in cases such as the killing of Alexander, which attracted widespread media interest, it may have been better to open the inquest to the public in the interest of transparency and fair play.

Alexander, a mentally ill man, was allegedly shot and killed by police officers at Biabou on October 16, 2008. It was reported that he was shot after he went into his grandfather’s home and started behaving violently.

Alexander’s mother Lovedear Alexander, in a recent interview with Searchlight, refuted claims that Kemasha was violent towards his grandfather. She also sought answers pertaining to the circumstances leading up to Kemasha’s death and at that time questioned why a coroner’s inquest had not yet been held.

The coroner’s inquest into the death of Patricia Jack-Bowman, which was presided over by Chief Magistrate Sonya Young and held earlier this year at the Kingstown Magistrate’s court, was open to the general public.

The purpose of the coroner’s inquest is to determine who or what is responsible for a person’s death.(OS)