JFJ concerned over woman’s alleged ‘suicide’ death in police custody 

Human rights organisation Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has expressed ‘deep concern’ over the controversial circumstances behind the death of a woman at the Half Way Tree Police Station last week,

and has called on authorities to act swiftly to clarify the situation amid what it said were “legitimate distress” and “suspicion” surrounding the incident.

The body of 51-year-old Jones Town, Kingston resident Desrine Morris was reportedly discovered hanging from a beam in the holding area of the station on Thursday night, after being arrested earlier that day.

Police said indications are that she used a piece of her clothing to hang herself.

But Morris’ family members have refuted the claims made by the police, stating that the mother of two would never have taken her own life and left her children behind.

In a news release Friday, JFJ said, for the past week, Morris’ family members have reported that they have made repeated efforts to see her body, but their requests have been denied by both the police and the Tranquility Funeral Home.

“As we write, the family has been unable to confirm that she is in fact dead. They and members of the Jones Town Community view her alleged suicide with deep suspicion,” the human rights group said, adding that, as representatives of the family, it is “deeply concerned about the circumstances of Desrine’s death.

Related Article : Woman reportedly commits suicide at Half-Way Tree station

“We call for transparency in the handling of the matter and an independent investigation,” said the JFJ.

The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) is among the bodies investigating the incident. A source from INDECOM told Loop News that the situation is presently being treating as a death in custody case.

Meanwhile, the JFJ said it understands that instructions were given to prohibit identification of Morris’ body by the family until a post-mortem was completed. According to the JFJ, this “differs from the approach taken in many other matters”.

What’s more, the JFJ said, despite requests, no date has been given for the post-mortem to occur.

“JFJ has written to the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, which has administrative responsibility, regarding the situation. An official response has not yet been received,” the organisation said.

The JFJ added that the family and community have received conflicting stories about Morris’ death and are “skeptical that she killed herself.”

To address what it calls a “serious uncertainty”, JFJ has called for the prompt scheduling of a post-mortem to establish the cause of death. It said the authorities must ensure that the family is notified of the post-mortem date in advance and that their ability to identify the body is accommodated.

“JFJ has made preliminary arrangements for the presence of an independent pathologist in the interest of transparency,” the human rights group said.

The JFJ added  that it “has no opinion on the cause of Ms Morris’ death at this time” but noted that  it was “concerned that yet another person has died while in the custody and care of the police.”

“The authorities must act swiftly to clarify the situation and respond to the legitimate distress and suspicion surrounding this death. JFJ will be monitoring the situation closely and will take all necessary steps to ensure that the truth is established,” the JFJ said.

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