Coroner Rickie Burnett today (Friday) discharged the jury in the inquest touching and concerning the death of Cjea Weekes, without any evidence being given.
Burnett told the jury, as well as Weekes’ mother, Natasha Weekes, and her lawyer, Jomo Thomas, that he was discharging the jury because a new coroner may have to hear the matter.
He said that he is proceeding on leave on Monday and might not resume his job.
There have been whispers over the past few weeks, with lawyers hinting in court this week, that Burnett may be “elevated” soon, meaning that he is being considered for appointment as a High Court judge.
He thanked the five-member coroner’s jury, which included one male, for attending the hearing.
“As you recall, it was sometime ago we did embark on a process to look into the death of Ceejay Weeks and a jury was empanelled,” Burnett said.
“Since that was done, efforts were made to reconvene the hearing but for several reasons we were unable to do that. We are here this morning because of a development in this matter,” the coroner said.
“Now, I am the coroner who has conduct of this inquest. However, on Monday, I intend to proceed on vacation leave and there is something different from that vacation leave that I intend to take. It seems likely that I may not resume this job when I go on vacation leave,” Burnett said.
He said this mean that he would be unable to start or convene the inquest.
“So my reason for calling you is to explain to you and the family as well that, unfortunately, it may not be possible for me to convene this inquest,” Burnett said.
“And because the jury was empanelled when I was the coroner, I don’t want the situation to occur that a jury is empaneled and the coroner is no longer a coroner. I am of the view that I should discharge this jury so that in the event that someone else occupies this chair that they can decide if they want to do the coroner’s inquest with a jury o rby themself,” Burnett said.
He said that he had had a conversation with Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne and is confident that she is paying attention to the matter.
Burnett said he was sure that in the event that he does not resume the job, the chief magistrate would take steps to ensure the matter is disposed of as soon as possible.
Weekes, an 18-year-old motorcyclist, of Argyle, died at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on Feb. 6, 2022, four days after suffering paralysing injuries while police in an SUV pursued him from Questelles to Twenty Hill as he rode his motorcycle.
Police have said that the teen sustained his injuries when he accidentally fell from his motorcycle.
However, Weekes’ mother told iWitness News on Feb. 4, 2022 that her son had told her that police had pursued him in their vehicle after he and a friend failed to comply with their instructions to stop.
She said he told her that the officer had run him over on an unpaved road in Twenty Hill, a community neighbouring Penniston, located two miles from Questelles, where the chase began.
In August 2022, Thomas said that Director of Public Prosecutions Sejilla McDowall had said that after a long and exhaustive investigation into Weekes’ death, her office did not think any criminal liability arises.
Some legal minds have questioned the DPP’s statement, asking what then would be the purpose of a coroner’s inquest, in light of the DPP’s comments.
The law says that a coroner’s inquest must be held when someone dies in sudden or unnatural circumstances.
At the time of publication of this article, the corner was waiting the arrival of the family of detective Sergeant Philbert Chambers, 30, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in Campden Park, on April 26, 2020.
Burnett is coroner in the inquest touching and concerning his death, as well as that of Gleason Lewis, 36, of Campden Park, who police say they shot and killed after he shot and killed Chambers during a police operation at Lewis’ home on the same date.
The magistrate said he wanted Chambers’ relatives to be present to hear what he has to say concerning that inquest.