ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – A coroner’s inquest into the death of a Canadian man who prosecutors say was fatally beaten by police officers in Grenada’s capital has once again been delayed, lawyers in the case said Monday.
The lawyer for one of five officers accused in the death of Oscar Bartholomew said only five of 17 potential jurors showed up for jury selection, effectively stalling the proceeding.
“The coroner expressed concern that he needed a minimum of 10 jurors present before commencement of the inquest,” despite a law that states five is enough, Anselm Clouden said in an email.
Fourteen witnesses — including Bartholomew’s widow, Dolette Cyr, and several other police officers — are expected to testify during the inquest, he said.
However, the majority were absent Monday, prompting the coroner to send out summonses for them, he said.
“In some cases, he indicated his disposition to compel their attendance by bench warrant,” the lawyer wrote.
The inquest has been adjourned until Nov. 11, said Christopher Nelson, the Caribbean nation’s top prosecutor.
Clouden stressed the need to proceed quickly given Canada’s interest in the case.
“Already there seems to be some inordinate delay in proceeding,” Clouden said Sunday in a phone interview from St. George’s.
“This process ought to be expedited because there are other interested parties looking in and we must give the world assurance that we are proceeding.”
The officers are accused of beating Bartholomew into a fatal coma on Boxing Day 2011 while he was in a cell in the hamlet of St. David’s.
Relatives said the altercation occurred after he bear-hugged a plainclothes policewoman he had mistaken for a friend and she yelled, “Rape!”
Bartholomew lived in Toronto but was in his native Grenada to visit family with Cyr, his wife of 10 years.
The officers were initially charged with manslaughter but the charges were quashed in March after a judge ruled the coroner’s inquest must take precedence.
The judge also ordered the officers reinstated and paid back the wages they missed as a result of being suspended due to the charges. They had been suspended with half-pay while on bail.
The Coroner’s Act mandates an inquest when someone dies in a public facility, such as a prison.
Unlike inquests in Canada, however, those in Grenada can return a verdict of murder or manslaughter.
The inquest was originally scheduled to begin this summer but was put off to Monday.
-by Paola Loriggio in Toronto.