Deaths in Custody - Coroners Report - Police - Tasers

Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA)

The second death in custody incident we raised outside of the Glebe coroner's court was that of young Roberto Laudisio Curti and his ten day inquest under the stewardship of state coroner Mary Jerram. Due to other commitments I could only attend for 4/5 days over the two week hearing but the gaps were part-filled by the media reports.

Like the NT coroner, coroner Jerram was insulted by the obvious collaboration and direct lies, even though on oath, by police witnesses involved in the death of Roberto. None of the 11 police recognised each other as they came from 3 different stations, all the police witnesses emulated the 3 wise monkeys. they either had not known of several important commissioner's instructions in the police manual or they had forgotten it. Whilst pinned to the ground on his stomach with "half a ton of police on him", as described by a female police officer who was calling for more back-up, Roberto was Tasered once more and was also drive-stunned at least 5 times by a probationary constable! What the hell was he doing with a Taser in the first place.

The police involved on that morning in chasing and capturing Roberto was quite active in a blood sport and cared not for the welfare of Roberto himself. They, the police, claimed that Roberto was in a state of 'excited delirium' as well he may have been at that time. It is no secret that Roberto was having a bad LSD trip and that caused his erratic behaviour. But it was quite clear that in his own mind he was fighting for his own life. He was in a drug-induced delirium but still attempted to save himself. For the bored cops at the end of their 12 hour shift it was, as I said, a blood sport. Tasers kill but still the police used their Tasers over and over again. The position that Roberto was held in, on his back with the sergeant with his full weight and knee in Roberto's abdomen also kills. This is the same restraint method used by then senior sergeant Chris Hurley when he killed Mulrungi Doomadgee on Palm Island.

Robert Laudisio Curti, of Sao Paulo, died on the morning of March 18, after 11 police officers pursued him through the streets of Sydney

Roberto was then rolled over on to his stomach and cuffed whilst still being Tasered. So many have died from asphyxia yet police are still allowed to continue this dangerous practice. So much went wrong for Roberto that morning but he just did not need to die. More care and less blood-sport, more professionalism and less cowboy antics would have allowed Roberto to live.

Then of course you get the police investigating police and with a strong wink and a nod to the police culture, lo and behold stand 11 innocent police officers. On the second last day as the last of the witnesses were called and exhaustion showed clearly on all faces but especially that of the family and their legal team the coroner, to my utter disbelief, made a statement that, inter alia, said that she had no intention of making any criminal charges against the 11 officers as it was not possible to really know what had actually caused the physical death of Roberto.

Was it the Tasering and drive-stunning that killed him? Possibly not as not all Taser use kills. Was it the several restraint methods so zealously used that killed him? Was it a state of asphyxia that killed him? Was it his heart gave out caused by the extreme trauma that Roberto suffered? Or was it the reason that Taser Corp. stated, that of excited delirium? If the coroner cannot find exactly the cause of death then, apparently, there is no one to blame.

Coroners are legally trained. They generally come from a pool of magistrates picked by the government of the day. The inquest they hold is to ascertain certain facts. these are:

(c) to enable coroners to investigate certain kinds of deaths or suspected deaths in order to determine the identities of the deceased persons, the times and dates of their deaths and the manner and cause of their deaths.

Coroner Jerram will be handing her full decision and recommendations down at the Glebe coroner's court at 9am on Wednesday 14 November 2012. I look forward to it with much interest.

The only coroner, to my mind and knowledge, who took the system and the cops on was Ms. Christine Clements who ruled that Hurley had a case to answer even though she was under great pressure from the Queensland government, the Qld. Police Union and its members. If only all coroners were guided by her example then death by police action would lessen or perhaps even cease.

Attached you will find a reply from the parliamentary secretary for the NSW police minister, Mike Gallacher, on a previous post on police actions and the use of Tasers.

The reply is but a form letter that says little. They still hide behind the very limited powers of the NSW ombudsman and the 'fact' that each Taser use/incident is investigated. what is not explained is that the investigation is done by other police officers.

The third death in custody incident we raised was the curious death of Mr Lewis who was held in custody by the police in Katherine, NT for 24 hours. The family state that they have been told by witnesses in the Katherine cells that Mr Lewis, a diabetic amputee, was brutally treated by the police officers on duty during that 24 hour period whilst the victim on his arrival at home told family members that he had been treated roughly and had been given no food, water or medication during the time he was held. this in itself is a major medical problem and shows the usual lack of duty of care by the police to those they have in their cells.

The police, interestingly, say they drove Mr Lewis to his home about 2.15 in the afternoon and observed that Mr Lewis was fine. The family however aver that the police dropped him home about 2.15am and he was in an agitated state. After telling his family of the previous circumstances he had found himself in, he then went to bed to sleep whereupon he died. To date that is all that is known.

We called for support for the family that his death be treated as a notifiable death to the coroner so the truth of his death can be known. We await the decision of the new clp NT government and the coroner's office to make it happen.

Readers of these posts may remember the case of Mr Clarke who was transferred from the Alice Springs gaol to the Alice Springs hospital where, sadly, he passed away. We supported the family in pushing for his death to become a notifiable death and that has now occurred. Mr Clarke died in March of this year and the Alice Springs hospital performed an autopsy, at the family request, some days after his death. An autopsy report was made by the hospital official who done the autopsy but for as yet unknown reasons, the family has not received it despite several requests. What is going on and why? What is the system trying to hide. We will continue to push for the report to be given to the family. Surely they are entitled to be properly informed on how their father/brother died. Curious indeed.

This evening we have finalised the speakers for the Taser! Taser! Taser! forum on the 16 november, 2012 at the Tom Mann Theatre, Chalmers Sstreet, near Central Railway Station beginning sharp at 6.30pm but come earlier if you wish for food and refreshments from 6pm and at the completion of the forum if time allows. This is an alcohol and drug-free event.

We are grateful to the AMWU and their members for reducing the costs of the theatre in a gesture of solidarity to the Aboriginal movement and ISJA in particular.

Our speakers are Ms. Thalia Anthony, Law Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, Dr. Carl Hughes, Independent forensic consultant, David Shoebridge, NEW Greens, victims of Tasering who cannot be named for their own protection and a possible surprise guest who also cannot be named. Between the speakers we are most pleased to have Ms. Marlene Cummins join us to sing some social justice songs including one at the behest of Roberto's family. we had invited the NSW ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, but as the following note from his office states, he can not attend.

The Ombudsman has asked me to respond to your invitation of 29 October. Unfortunately the Ombudsman is not available on the 16 November to attend the Indigenous Social Justice Association's forum on the use of Tasers. He thanks you for your kind invitation and wishes you all the best with the event.

Kind Regards,

Ray Jackson
Indigenous Social Justuce Association

The Koori Centre, Deaths in Custody Incidents, Coroners, Police, Our Taser Forum

Friday, November 09, 2012

Professor Shane Houston

The last couple of weeks has found ISJA involved in several actions including twice attending the Sydney University to put our support behind the student protests to the university trying to, if not phase out entirely the Koori Centre, then to seriously cripple its activities and to mainstream its services by adding on other groups within the university. This action plan was brought about by Professor Shane Houston, an Aboriginal man, who came to the conclusion, either culturally or financially, that the Koori Centre was no longer required as a stand-alone entity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Two of the Aboriginal students went to face Shane in an attempt to find out what the hell is going on.

We rant and rail against the complete lack of fair dinkum consultations by governments and others yet we have one of our own doing the self same thing. We await the outcome of Shane's explanation to the Koori Centre and its students.

Last Thursday, 1/11/12, we gathered outside of the coroner's court at Glebe to highlight our collective dissatisfaction at the timidity of coroners, Australia-wide but in this instance we focussed on NSW and the NT, in their opinions, decisions and recommendations when police are involved in a death in custody incident.

In the inquest into the death in custody of Mr Briscoe at the hands of the Alice Springs police in the Alice Springs lock-up, the coroner, Greg Cavanagh, was disgusted and appalled at the violence meted out to Mr Briscoe by several of the police on duty the night he died. the coroner showed his condemnation of the brutality of the police by repeating several times the words, "why was he not taken to the hospital for treatment of his police-initiated wounds?" or words to that effect.

instead Mr Briscoe was treated as being of no significance as to whether he lived or died. He was smashed into the dock which made him bleed on the lock-up floor, was then dragged and half-carried into a cell and thrown in so his position was half-on a rubber mattress but laying on his stomach rather than on his back or side. all this was on the police tapes which were played in Greg Cavanagh's court.

when the coroner handed down his decision and recommendations he made no mention of the officers involved the night of Mr Briscoe's death. He did make repeat recommendations that he had made in two previous inquests but no officer was recommended to be charged. nothing but mindless repeated platitudes. that is why the family of Mr Briscoe are distributing a petition in an attempt to find justice for their loved one.

Please sign, and encourage everyone you know to help and lend their support. We need people to pay attention and speak out. My nephew, other victims and our community have been ignored for too long.

Thank you,

Patricia Morton-Thomas

We stand solid in our support for and of Patricia's heart-felt call.