The reason Dinwiddie's prosecutor decided to quickly press charges in Irvo Otieno's death

Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 30, 2023

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- It's been 24 days since Irvo Otieno died at Central State Hospital while in the custody of Henrico County Sheriff's deputies.

"I cried yesterday watching the funeral on live stream. But they were kind of tears of beauty and power because of the faith shown and just the beautiful speeches given," Ann Cabell Baskervill, Dinwiddie's Commonwealth's Attorney, said.

Baskervill believes her years as a prosecutor, first in Richmond and now in Dinwiddie, have prepared her for the last 24 days.

"To honor Irvo, to honor really everyone in the community is to make sure we turn this into something positive, so out of negative will come positive," Baskervill said.

Baskervill said she couldn't comment on the specifics of the Otieno case but she did sit down with CBS 6 to discuss the issues that surround it.

"Why are we using mental illness as a slur? It is not a slur. It is a human condition and one that is every bit deserving of dignity and respect," Baskervill said.

Otieno's family said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis when he was taken into custody by Henrico Police on March 3.

He was first taken to Parham Doctor's Hospital before being taken to the Henrico Jail. On March 6, Otieno was brought to Central State Hospital's forensic unit. The last hour and a half of Otieno's life were captured on surveillance cameras. Baskervill watched the video alongside Otieno's family.

"It was really powerful. I wish everyone could watch them watch the video honestly because the magnitude of that and how this affects fellow human beings is a reality," Baskervill said.

Based in large part on what she saw, Baskervill charged seven deputies and three Central State employees all with the same crime - second-degree murder.

The move has drawn criticism from some, including the defense attorneys involved in the case.

However, Baskervill said the serious charge and quick action were required for public safety and transparency.

"I think society, this community, communities all around the country, the world, if we had not taken swift action, how could we be trusted?"

In the end, Baskervill said she believes people should have faith in the system.

"When we are at our most vulnerable, then we most need the law to be on our side, to protect us, to protect and respect our dignity and our humanity," Baskervill.

Baskervill has been in office since 2014. She has decided not to run for reelection in November and believes when the trials begin, they shouldn't be at the Dinwiddie County Courthouse.

"I really hope actually the federal government will step in and address, including some of the macro issues, but I'd also say these trials are going to take a lot of resources and we're a very small jurisdiction and we will need more resources to try this on behalf of society," Baskervill said.

Baskervill believes something positive should come out of Otieno's death and that positive should be how law enforcement and society deal with mental health issues. She also believes the criminal trials will not be the end of what happened.

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