What to expect when a Dinwiddie grand jury meets to discuss death of Irvo Otieno

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-20 18:13:33-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- The grand jury in Dinwiddie County will meet on Tuesday to hear the case against seven Henrico County Sheriff's deputies and three employees at Central State Hospital about their involvement in the death of Irvo Otieno.

Twenty-eight-year-old Irvo Otieno was pronounced dead on March 6 shortly after arriving at Central State Hospital's Forensics Unit for a mental health crisis. The deputies and employees allegedly involved in his death are currently charged with second-degree murder.

The grand jury meeting on Tuesday will be made up of five to seven Dinwiddie County citizens.

"It's really just to find out whether there's enough evidence of probable cause level to go forward with criminal charges," Todd Stone, CBS 6's legal analyst, said.

The defendants nor their attorneys will be present. Instead, the burden will fall on the prosecution.

"Usually, it will be investigators. In this case, they're probably going to be shown the video to the grand jurors describing who the people are and asking for specific charges," Stone said.

Even though the ten are currently charged with second-degree murder, Virginia law says all felonies go before a grand jury.

"So, they've been charged with criminal information which is a unique and rare process that allows a public official to act quickly, but they still, according to Virginia law, will go through a grand jury process before they get to trial," Stone said.

If the grand jury finds probable cause, they then have a true bill.

"A true bill is an indictment and so that's the formal beginning of the criminal process in circuit court," Stone said. "The burden is lower at a grand jury - it's just probable cause. Whereas a trial, it's proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

While the grand jury will see the videos concerning Otieno and his treatment at Central State Hospital, his family was allowed to view the videos last week.

"There's no requirement that the video be shared with them at this stage. But it's certainly proactive of the Commonwealth's Attorney to do so and I can understand why she felt it appropriate for this sort of case," Stone said.

After the grand jury meets on Tuesday, the speedy trial clock starts meaning if the defendants don't waive that right, any suspect not being held in jail has nine months to go to trial. If a suspect is being held in jail, they have five months.

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