Published On: Sun, Oct 11th, 2015

Ajibade case hinges on time of death

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ajibadeSAVANNAH (OS) The case against three Chatham County jail workers charged in the death of Matthew Ajibade hinges on what happened between the time the victim was processed and the time he was discovered dead in a restraint chair in a holding cell — with no camera.

Some questions about that two-hour time period were answered in the courtroom last week as the trial got underway and more are expected to be answered as the case resumes Monday.

Here’s the timeline:

Ajibade was brought into the jail and though apprehensive did not offer any outright physical resistance right away, according to the jail surveillance that was played in the courtroom.

But as other guards began to gather around him, he began to actively resist their attempts to subdue him.

During the melee that followed, guards dragged Ajibade to the floor and punched him repeatedly as one official used a Taser to force him to comply.

But Ajibade was able to wrest the taser from the guard and use it on her, which led another guard to kick at the taser. Instead, he kicked Ajibade in the head.

In the video, the victim ceases to resist shortly after that kick.

In the county coroner’s death certificate, the cause of Ajibade’s death is listed as blunt force trauma and the document also lists time death as within minutes of the trauma.

Also within minutes, Ajibade was placed in a restraint chair and taken into a holding cell that had no surveillance camera where he was tased four more times, according to former Lt. Debra Johnson, who was the watch commander in charge of the jail that night and was later forced to retire or be fired.

Johnson also said in testimony that guards violated an order to place Ajibade into a detox cell which had a camera and where he could be observed from the control center.

She said she did not know why.

Because the cell had no camera, it’s not certain what happened during the two hours before Ajibade’s lifeless body was discovered, but the county coroner’s office was called to the scene to declare the victim dead.

At his point, the coroner has more than one tool available to him for use in determininig the time of death, including the temperature of the body when it was discovered.

But on the death certificate the coroner’s office entered the time of death as 8:45 a.m. — approximately the time the body was discovered, not the actual time of death — which may have constituted falsification of a government document which is a crime in Georgia.

The autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab may have listed a more accurate time of death but officials declined to provide that document because the case was ongoing.

Officials can withhold that information as long as the case remains in the courts, even in appeals.

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