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Solicitor releases statement on Jamal Sutherland death certificate

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 5:13 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has released a statement regarding Jamal Sutherland’s amended death certification. The amended certificate ruled the manner of Sutherland’s death a homicide.

In a statement, Wilson said the certificate is not evidence and is typically not part of the case.

“In order for the State to hold someone criminally responsible for another’s death, the State must not only prove the proximate cause of death but also that the accused had the requisite criminal intent while acting unlawfully,” Wilson said.

Sutherland died back in January after repeatedly being tased at the detention center. The coroner initially ruled the manner of his death undetermined.

The family’s lawyer sent Live 5 News an amended death certificate changing his manner of death to homicide. The death certificate was amended on June 4.

The solicitor says the word “homicide” does not necessarily mean a crime took place. But she says it is imperative experts analyze video and policies involved in the incident.

“The word ‘homicide’ is not equal to or synonymous with any crime in South Carolina,” Wilson said. “Many prosecutions move forward when a manner of death is “undetermined,” and sometimes cases deemed a ‘homicide’ are not a crime.”

Wilson cited the National Association of Medical Examiners which notes that the term “homicide” with regard to a death certificate is a “neutral” term that does not indicate or imply criminal intent, a determination within the authority of legal processes.

Wilson said she has discussed the topic in detail with the Sutherlands.

She said an important factor in her investigation and consideration of prosecution is the coroner’s pathologist in finding that the cause of death was the result of Sutherland’s “excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process.”

“He further stated that his review of the extrication process did not reveal any ‘unusual or excessive interactions or areas of direct concern,’” Wilson said.

“As I previously stated, I have sought a second opinion as to the autopsy results. Dr. Kim Collins, a renowned and board certified forensic pathologist, is performing the review,” Wilson said. “While her work is incomplete, I expect a finding of homicide. She is still investigating any “pharmacotherapeutic effect” and its role in Sutherland’s death. It is our understanding that the coroner has requested additional forensic testing which may bear on this issue for both Dr. Downs and Dr. Collins. Determining the cause, rather than medical manner, of death is critical in prosecuting someone for the death of another.”

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