Virginia judge rejects defense motion to hold Irvo Otieno's body as evidence; all defendants granted bond
DINWIDDIE, Va. – A judge denied a defense request on Wednesday to hold the body of Irvo Otieno, saying that a corpse “is not a T-shirt" or something else that can be easily stored.
The request came Wednesday morning during a bond hearing for Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30, who was in charge of the detail that transported Otieno to Central State Hospital on March 6.
Co-counsel Torrey Williams asked for a motion to “preserve the evidence” in the commonwealth’s case, which essentially was Otieno’s body. Otieno's remains are currently at the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond, Virginia, and the medical examiner has said it could be 10 to 12 weeks before a final report is issued.
Williams motioned for the body to stay under the medical examiner's custody until the defense could get their own certified medical examiner to do an indepedent autopsy.
Circuit Judge Joseph Teefey repeatedly asked Williams what evidence he had to warrant such a motion, and Williams said it was a "concern" that not all of the commonwealth’s evidence was going to be available this early in the case process.
“When you start with ‘concern,’ you’re heading down the road to speculation,” Teefey said. “What evidence do you have?”
“None,” Williams said.
Teefey suggested that the defense “quickly” get someone with similar credentials as the state’s coroner to observe the autopsy process, adding that wenot going to order Otieno’s body not be released to his family for burial just because of speculation.
“Quite frankly, we’re not talking about a T-shirt or a vial of blood,” Teefey said. “We’re talking about the dignity of the human body. I’m going to deny your motion.”
The preservation motion was made after Teefey set Sanders’ bond at $25,000 when Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill called him “the most culpable, the most responsible” defendant in Otieno’s death.
According to Baskervill, Sanders had restrained Otieno the most out of all the seven deputies by holding his head and upper body down during the 12-minute period. Surveillance footage from the hospital also shows Sanders feeling Otieno's neck for a pulse once the deputies removed themselves from him.
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All defendants granted bond
By Wednesday afternoon, all 10 of the defendants had been granted bond.
With the exception of Sanders and Tabitha Renee Levere, 50, who was granted the lowest bond at $5,000, all of the other defendants were granted bail at $10,000 or $15,000.
Other defendants in the case are deputies Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; and Brandon Edward Rodgers, 48; and Central State Hospital security guards Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg, Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.
All 10 were indicted Tuesday by a Dinwiddie grand jury on the charges.
Rev. Al Sharpton to deliver eulogy
Otieno’s family attorneys announced Wednesday that Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy at Otieno’s memorial service. The service will be held at the First Baptist Church of South Richmond.
Sharpton is the founder and president of the New York-based National Action Network, a civil-rights advocacy organization. Sharpton has been a prominent figure in recent high-profile cases involving the deaths of Black men and women across the nation.
Family co-counsel Ben Crump said the time and date of the service should be announced within the next few days.
'Just the beginning step'
Calling the 10 people charged in the death of her son “monsters” and “criminals,” Otieno's mother was happy to see them all indicted but said those indictments are just the first step in getting justice for her family.
With her family and attorneys, Caroline Ouko spoke at a news conference Tuesday night at the First Baptist Church of South Richmond, asserting that justice will be achieved for Otieno.
According to Otieno's family, the 28-year-old had been suffering from a mental crisis when he died on March 6 in an admissions area at Central State Hospital after being restrained by seven Henrico County sheriff's deputies and three hospital employees for 12 minutes.
Recently released footage from the hospital showed Otieno, wearing handcuffs and leg chains, being dragged into the room. He was then subdued against a table and chair before getting pinned to the floor. One deputy had his knee on Otieno's neck.
“Those nine men, those nine cowards, and one woman, those 10 monsters, those 10 animals,” Caroline Ouko said Tuesday night at a church in south Richmond. “I was happy to hear that they were indicted. And that is just the beginning step."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Irvo Otieno case: Judge denies motion to hold his body as evidence