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'Unconscionably small'

US pathologist raises concern about cell in which Mario Deane was allegedly beaten

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicobserver.com

Friday, September 05, 2014    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — United States-based pathologist Dr Michael Baden says the acutely confined space of the cell in which 31-year-old Mario Deane was allegedly beaten at the Barnett Street Police Station was "guaranteed to create problems".

According to Dr Baden, such gross overcrowding of a prison cell would never be allowed in his native country.

"We toured the cell in which Mario was injured. It is bad. It is unconscionably small, it does not permit five adult people to reside in this cramped-type cell, with five concrete beds, not beds, just hard concrete. It wouldn't be permitted in the United States, five in a tightened cell like that," Dr Baden said.

"... In California in New York, if you arrest people and you do not have any place to put them you have to release them. You cannot arrest people if you don't have place to keep them. Once they are arrested, the responsibility is on the police and the corrections officers to protect them and to have proper health care, all kinds of proper administration of food, etc," Dr Baden added.

The renowned pathologist visited the cell at the Barnett Street Police Station on Tuesday following his observance of Deane's autopsy which was undertaken by Dr Murari Saranji.

Speaking at a press conference in Montego Bay Wednesday, Dr Baden also said that placing Deane in a cell along with people who had intellectual disabilities raised eyebrows. "This whole concept of putting people in that type of cell... should not be permitted," he said.

"Mario was put in a situation where there were four people -- two mentally challenged, one was mute and has other problems -- instead of putting him into a separate cell because he was about to be released when someone got there with bail, as I understand," he said.

He said that he has worked extensively at correction facilities in the United States and for their safety, "mentally challenged people cannot be put in the general population.

"They (mentally challenged) tend to stay by themselves and they tend to be the ones who are picked on and who are beaten in the cell; so there has got to be a separation of mental persons."

Deane was allegedly beaten by his cellmates at the Barnett Street police lock-up on August 3, hours after he was taken into custody for possession of a small amount of ganja. He died three days later from the injuries. The police initially said that Deane fell from a bunk bed, but later alleged that he was beaten by his cellmates.

Dr Baden was accompanied to the press conference by Deane's mother Mercia Frazer, his sister Sadiki Deane, his aunt Andrea Frazer and the family attorney Miguel Lorne.

Lorne, who stated that while the autopsy did not pinpoint who beat Deane, it disproves initial police statements that the injuries he sustained were as as a result of a fall from a bunk in the jail cell.

He said that the matter is now in the hands of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) which will make a ruling after receiving the report from the pathology results.

Deane's mother, meanwhile, was also full of praises for Dr Saranji.

"I want to say thanks to Dr Saranji for he was so gracious to Dr Baden. He was really nice. I met him, we talked and he was co-operative," the bereaved mother said, while appealing to the public for financial assistance to offset the transportation cost for Dr Baden, among other expenses. "Dr Baden is here, he is not really charging, but we have to take him in and out, and other expenses."

She said donations can be deposited to Scotiabank account number 823837, or the National Commercial Bank account number 36752.

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