KINGSTON (Reuters) - A funeral was held in Montego Bay on Sunday for a 31-year-old Jamaican man who died last month after he was beaten in his jail cell.
Mario Deane was arrested last month for possession of a marijuana cigarette, or “spliff,” that contained less than an ounce of the drug, according to his family’s lawyer, Jasmine Rand.
Deane died in jail after being refused bail for expressing his disdain for the police, the family’s lawyers allege.
Police initially said Deane’s injuries resulted after falling from a bunk bed, but later stated he was beaten by fellow prisoners in his cell.
Lawyers for Deane’s family said a doctor who performed an independent autopsy concluded that extensive brain swelling and hemorrhaging caused his death.
Two of Deane’s cellmates, Marvin Orr and Adrian Morgan, have been charged with his murder, but lawyers for Deane’s family allege he was a victim of police brutality. Reuters was unable to reach the lawyers representing the two cellmates.
Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which investigates cases of police and military members allegedly abusing their powers, is looking into Deane’s death.
A member of parliament for the Montego Bay area, Lloyd B Smith, told mourners that a change in the culture was needed in the Jamaica Constable Force (JCF), otherwise “we will have more Mario Deanes,” the national daily Jamaica Observer reported.
The case has made headlines in Jamaica and a protest was also held outside the Jamaican consulate in New York in late August to call for justice.
The Deane family has hired a high profile U.S. civil rights law firm, Parks and Crump, to help represent them. The Tallahassee, Florida-based law firm also represents the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri in August. The racially charged incident led to a standoff between police and protesters in the town.
Parks and Crump also represent the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old who was fatally shot in central Florida in February 2012. That case led to accusations of racial profiling by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last year by a jury.
Editing by David Adams and Diane Craft