MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten has scheduled an inquest into the death of Ja'Marr Tiller, the 2-year-old boy who died in late May after being bitten multiple times by two dogs outside his Mt. Pleasant home.
The inquest has been scheduled for August 10 at 9 a.m. in the Lonnie Hamilton, III Public Services Building.
Tiller was found fatally injured near two dogs outside his home located at 2470 Highway 17 North on May 27. Tiller's uncle told Charleston County deputies that he took care of one of the dogs but the other was just a stray that came to visit.
A release states the purpose of the inquest, a judicial proceeding, is to air the facts and obtain testimony so a jury can gather information, deliberate, and deliver a finding. "Jurors have been summoned and witnesses will be subpoenaed. Because the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is the investigating agency, some of their officers will be subpoenaed to testify," Wooten said.
Wooten will act as the judge.
"The reason I have decided to do an inquest into Tiller's death is because I have not yet ruled on the manner of death," Wooten said. "An inquest is a powerful tool for me to gather facts, and at the end of the day, the jury is charged with getting back to me a decision on the manner of death."
In South Carolina, there are five manners of death: natural, accidental, suicide, homicide and undetermined.
"We know the cause of death, but are interested in the jurors' ruling regarding manner of death in this very complicated case," Wooten said. "Tiller's death was not natural or a suicide, but is it appropriate to say it's an accident or to charge someone with neglect? The jury's finding won't bind the solicitor in any way, but it's very compelling."
"The biggest difference with an inquest is that the jurors get to ask questions, and attorneys can't participate except to the extent that the coroner allows," Wooten said.
"Jurors have been summoned and witnesses will be subpoenaed. Because the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is the investigating agency, some of their officers will be subpoenaed to testify," Wooten said.
Wooten expects that the inquest on Tiller's case will last all day.
The last inquest done by Wooten's office was held December 2008 and lasted until 10 p.m. It was for a case regarding a 2007 plane crash that was initially thought to be an accident but was ultimately ruled undetermined.