Attorney General (AG), Levi Peter, has come under fire from lawyer Tyhani Behanzin for statements made concerning Behazine’s presence at the autopsy of a Picard man who died while in police custody.
Speaking on Kairi’s Heng Program on Monday, Levi said a “troublesome slope” is created when attorneys are allow to attend autopsies.
“It is not normal,” he stated. “I don’t believe it is a practice that should be adopted. My own view is that it should not be adopted at all. If I have been asked, I would say it shouldn’t happen in this instance.”
Peter questioned the “expertise” that attorneys bring to such procedures.
“My view is very clear on this,” he stated. “I believe this is a troublesome slope because if you start allowing attorneys, then what is the expertise they bring? It is an autopsy, there is a pathologist, unless somebody wants to say the pathologist is somehow dishonest and corrupt and they can say so and there is a process to deal with it. Otherwise, I think the only people that should be there are people who have something to do with the autopsy and if I am a lawyer and I have an issue with the autopsy, I arrange for a second autopsy .”
Peter further stated that a problem is created when “you tell the next lawyer that her or she cannot go.”
“So if you asking my opinion, I don’t think it should happen,” he stated.
But Behanzin, who is representing the family of Joshua Etienne who died in police custody, described Peter’s position as erroneous.
“It if is a legal point, quote the law under which you make your statement,” he told privately-owned Q95 on Tuesday in response to Peter.
He said he applied for permission to attend the autopsy at the coroner’s court since this is legal under Section 30 of the Coroner’s Act and since Etienne’s death “is suspicious.”
Section 30 of the Act reads, “no counsel or solicitor shall be entitled as a right to appear in any proceeding before a coroner’s court or the coroner may, if he think fits on application, permit such appearance.”
Behanzin pointed out that attempts were made to prevent him from attending the autopsy, despite the fact that he had permission from the coroner’s court.
He stated that there was “deliberate misinformation” by Peter “to make me look as if I don’t know what I am doing to start with.”
Behanzin said additionally that Peter is using his authority as AG to confuse and put medical staff at risk by telling them that they should not “allow particular people in the autopsy when they have received permission from the coroner…”
“Then he now is in contempt of the court,” he stated. “I was there because I was given authority by the court.”
Meanwhile police PRO, assistant superintendent Claude Weekes, said Behanzin was present at the autopsy because he applied for what he described as a “watch in brief.”
“He made an application and the application was approved by the said court and that would have given him, from a court perspective, the authority to be present at the post mortem,” Weekes said.
Etienne’s death at the Portsmouth Police Station has attracted national attention. He was found dead in his cell on August 6 after he was arrested for alleged possession of ammunition the day before.