Jury deliberations have begun in the inquest into the death of a man while in police custody last summer.
Larry McPherson was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after struggling with police during his arrest on the morning of August 28th.
In court today, the jury heard from medical experts, including a forensic pathologist, a toxicologist, and the doctor who attended to McPherson on the night of his death.
The forensic pathologist, who appeared via videoconference, took the jury through the various injuries found on McPherson’s body during his autopsy, including abrasions to his face, knees and legs. The pathologist said that although he could not conclude precisely how the injuries occurred, the wounds were in keeping with police accounts of McPherson struggling against the ground. However, he called the injuries superficial and said that they in no way could have contributed to the death.
The pathologist also cited air bubbles inside McPherson’s body cavity, which he thought may have been as a result of resuscitation attempts by police and medical personnel. The toxicologist, who appeared briefly via viderconference, confirmed that McPherson had a very small amount of alcohol in his body, but a considerable amount of a metabolic byproduct of cocaine. The toxicologist said the levels of this byproduct were more than ten times the laboratory-determined danger threshold for fatality in cocaine use. He also stated that alcohol is known to enhance the effects of other drugs, including cocaine. Contrary to inquest council’s earlier assertion that McPherson had been using a mixture of heroin and cocaine, no other drugs were found in McPherson’s body.
The doctor who attended McPherson’s arrival in hospital lauded the resuscitation efforts of police and emergency personnel enroute to hospital, saying that if he were in the same situation, he wouldn’t have done anything different. He also fielded questions from a jury member about the purpose of an AED, an automatic defibrillating device which automatically determines whether the type of cardiac arrest a patient has entered is appropriate to receive shock. If the machine doesn’t find the appropriate electrical activity in the body, it will not shock the patient. The doctor clarified that the device was only useful when the heart was in a specific state of fibrillation, which is a specific type of irregular contractions. The doctor suggested that the electrical activity occurring in McPherson’s heart when paramedics attached AED to him was not indeed fibrillation. He added that there is currently no treatment for the type of cardiac arrest McPherson experienced.
The jury finally heard from McPherson’s sister Lori, who described her brother as a shy, kind person who struggled with undiagnosed ADD for the majority of his life and had resorted to using crack cocaine to cope with the unhappiness the disorder brought to his life. Stopping periodically to sob, she suggested that her brother had been afraid for his life. She cited a phone call McPherson made to his father in which he had said he thought that drug dealers in Fort St. John were out to get him. She said their father had told him that if he felt he was being followed, he should run into an open area, scream for help and smash a window to get the attention of police.
Lori McPherson also thanked emergency personnel for their efforts in attempting to save her brother’s life.
The jury will present their reccommendations, if any, to the inquest either this evening or Saturday.