The coroner’s inquest into the death of Raymond Silverfox was supposed to provide answers, but it didn’t, says Susanna Roothman.
The verdict contradicts the evidence, said the lawyer, who is representing Silverfox’s family.
“The main idea is to overturn that decision, that he died of natural causes.”
Roothman has argued for a judicial review – not just of the coroner’s inquest, but of the investigation for that inquest as well.
“The coroner is supposed to do her own investigation, pursuant to the (Yukon) Coroner’s Act,” said Roothman.
“She did not do that investigation,” Roothman said. “As far as the coroner relies on the RCMP’s investigation, any gaps or biases in that investigation are also her gaps and biases.”
Coroner Sharon Hanley would not comment on the ongoing legal case.
On December 2, 2008, while in RCMP custody, Silverfox died of acute pneumonia which led to a lethal blood infection, according to Dr. Charles Lee, the forensic pathologist who investigated the death.
While infection and pneumonia may have caused his heart to stop pumping, many people – like Silverfox’s daughter Deanna Lee Charlie – believe it was the state he was left in and lack of care he received that ultimately caused his death.
For 13 hours Silverfox lay in a police cell.
He was covered in his own urine and excrement, had vomited 26 times and was literally surrounded by his own filth.
When he moaned, called for help or asked for a mattress, officers “made jokes, mocked and verbally abused Silverfox in a grossly shocking and disrespectful manner while he was detained in an uninhabitable cell and inhumane conditions,” according to Lee’s report.
“I don’t know how one can make peace with something like that,” said Roothman.
To be able to get past this trauma, Silverfox’s family must be able to understand what happened, she said.
Roothman will also be arguing for a public inquiry into the case, but it is doubtful the court can persuade or order politicians to do so.
“But I will do my best to put forth the best legal argument I can to support that,” she said.
Currently both sides are waiting for the judge to decide what the scope of this judicial review will be, which means they are waiting to see if it will include the coroner’s investigation.
No date has been scheduled for the review.