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Charleston Co. Coroner identifies 3 causes in Jamal Sutherland homicide

Published: Jun. 16, 2021 at 10:15 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Coroner’s Office updated the public regarding the investigation into the death of Jamal Sutherland.

Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal hosted a news release at 1 p.m. Wednesday. This announcement comes two days after Sutherland’s death certificate was amended to rule his death a homicide.

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

In her news conference, O’Neal said first whenever a final verdict is made in the death investigation case the first people to know will be Sutherland’s family.

She said that Sutherland died from a heart dysrhythmia she described as microscopic. That dysrhythmia was created by three main causes, O’Neal continued.

Those three main causes included his excited state, a change in his medication and his subdual, O’Neal said. Because one of those causes was subdual, O’Neal said state guidelines suggest that it would automatically categorize Sutherland’s death as a homicide.

While they will continue the death investigation, the coroners office says they will maintain the homicide classification until they have more information.

When discussing the three main causes O’Neal highlighted Sutherland’s toxicology report. She said that Sutherland had his baseline medication changed during his stay at Palmetto Behavioral Health. That was the hospital Sutherland was removed from when he was arrested.

O’Neal says most of the medications Sutherland was prescribed during his stay are know to have a risk of causing a cardiac dysrhythmia.

When asked why Sutherland’s original death certificate listed his cause of death as ‘undetermined’ , O’Neal said they use the distinction of ‘undetermined’ when, “We don’t have information that is clear or we need to do further review to make that designation.”

O’Neal then focused on the third cause, subdual. She said that Sutherland had a traumatic stress response from his subdual that definitely played a role in his death. She said that it was her personal belief that Sutherland’s subdual was a major factor, “but just as significant and important is the role of the medication prescribed and administered.”

Following the amendment, South Carolina State Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said “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.”

Detention deputies tased Sutherland nine times inside his jail cell, but despite that O’Neal says there was just one Taser prong wound on his body.

“It’s important also to note that the autopsy failed to identify any fatal injuries,” she said. ”There were no fatal injuries that were identified during that process, even through that extensive investigation.”

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