By David McFadden
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KINGSTON, Jamaica _ A U.S. civil rights lawyer said Monday that she is volunteering her time to help represent relatives of a slain Jamaican man whose death in custody has amplified distrust of the Caribbean country’s police force among many islanders.
Jasmine Rand, an attorney who heads the civil rights department for Florida law firm Parks & Crump, was one of the lawyers representing the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Last week, she joined the legal team representing relatives of Mario Deane, a 31-year-old Jamaican construction worker who died on Aug. 6 after he was beaten in a police lockup in Montego Bay.
Two inmates have been charged with Deane’s death, but attorney Michael Lorne asserts the death resulted from police brutality or misconduct. An independent commission that probes allegations of abuses by Jamaican security forces is investigating the death.
Appearing at a Monday press conference in Kingston alongside Deane’s parents, Rand said her pro bono work will bring international “resources” to the Jamaican legal team.
“Though I cannot speak in a court of law here, I can help to bring resources and I can help to bring legal strategies, share my failures and share the triumphs that we had in bringing the movement in the Trayvon Martin case,” she said.
The press conference comes a day before Dr. Michael Baden, an internationally known forensic pathologist who has consulted for decades on numerous high-profile deaths, is expected to oversee an autopsy on Deane’s body. Baden most recently examined the body of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Baden, once the chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police and chief medical examiner for New York City, has accepted a greatly reduced fee to examine Deane’s corpse in Jamaica, according to Rand.
Human rights activists have repeatedly criticized the high number of police killings by Jamaican police officers, and residents of poor neighbourhoods regularly protest what they insist are unjustified killings by lawmen.
Interest in the Deane case is high in Jamaica, where people are discussing the police custody death on street corners, in officers, in letters to the editor and on social networking websites. At Monday’s press conference, prominent Jamaican attorney Bert Samuels described the case as “like a fire that can’t be dampened.”