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Prosecutor wants 1 trial for 10 charged in Irvo Otieno's death

Posted at 3:14 PM, Apr 26, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers should be put on trial together in the case of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old man who died after he was pinned to the floor as he was being admitted to a Virginia psychiatric hospital, a prosecutor argued Wednesday.

All 10 defendants are charged with second-degree murder in Otieno's March 6 death. An autopsy determined Otieno died of asphyxia while he was in handcuffs and metal leg restraints and held to the floor for about 11 minutes, Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill wrote in a motion seeking to try all the defendants together.

Baskervill argues that the 10 defendants “acted together” and should be tried together.

“It is not irrelevant that if one person here had acted differently, then Otieno may very well have been able to survive. Nor is it irrelevant that if one person had encouraged the others to act differently and urged others to stop applying lethal pressure to Otieno, Otieno might well still be with us today," the motion states. “The fact that nobody did this is part of the problem and part of the crime charged, because the collective pressure was the cause of his death.”

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Attorneys for several of the defendants did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the motion.

During early court appearances and in statements, several of the defense attorneys have said that Otieno was combative and that the deputies were trying to restrain him. Several attorneys have also said their clients were positioned at Otieno's legs and did not know he was having trouble breathing.

Video released publicly last month shows various members of the group attempting to restrain Otieno for about 20 minutes after he was led into a room at Central State Hospital, where he was to be admitted. For most of that time, Otieno is shown on the floor being held down by a group that at one point appeared to include 10 people.

The family of Otieno, who was Black, has said he was brutally mistreated, both at the hospital and while in law enforcement custody for several days before that.

The family is being represented by Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who also represented the family of George Floyd and has said Otieno's treatment has close parallels with Floyd's killing in police custody in Minneapolis in 2020. Virginia attorney Mark Krudys, who is also representing Otieno's family, has pushed back against defense claims that Otieno was being combative and has said he was simply struggling to breathe.

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