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Reject govt’s move to reverse coroner’s verdict, lawyer tells court

 | September 25, 2017

Forensic pathologist's finding not credible and this was supported by a medical committee when the inquest was reopened, argues Eric Paulsen.

Eric-Paulsen-P-Karuna-NithiPETALING JAYA: The High Court was today urged to reject the findings of a forensic pathologist as her credibility was destroyed when questioned during an inquest into the death of a police detainee.

Lawyer Eric Paulsen said Dr Sharifah Safoorah Syed Alwee Al’ Aldrus’s evidence did not even get support when the health ministry’s six-man committee reviewed her post-mortem findings of P Karuna Nithi.

On Oct 13, 2015, committee chairman Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood, a senior consultant forensic pathologist at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, gave evidence after the inquest was reopened.

“The inquiry committee report concluded that Karuna Nithi died from multiple blunt force trauma with moderate fatty liver,” Eric submitted before judicial commissioner Muhammad Jamil Hussein.

Eric said the first verdict delivered by Coroner Jagjit Singh in Jan 28, 2015 stated the detainee suffered 49 multiple injuries caused by blunt objects, including physical assault, abuse and unlawful acts of police officers and other detainees in the police lockup.

He said the coroner said the deceased was not given the required medical care or attention and police officers failed to stop other detainees from abusing Karuna Nithi.

Eric said Sharifah’s evidence should be discredited for numerous flaws that became apparent when she was cross-examined by a counsel who was medically qualified.

“She made contradictory responses during cross-examination which were at odds with the written findings of her post-mortem report,” he said.

Eric said she made dubious findings as to the deceased’s cause of death, which are inconsistent with the external injuries of the deceased, as well as the findings of the committee.

The lawyer said the coroner had good grounds to question the validity and reliability of the post-mortem findings and the government’s application for revision was misguided in law.

He said Karuna Nithi was a healthy adult male with no life-threatening diseases when he entered the lockup.

Eric said it would be erroneous to accept the government’s narrative that no one should be held responsible purely because the cause of death in the post-mortem was stated as “fatty changes of the liver.”

Government lawyer Nik Azhan Hakim Nik Mahmoood submitted that the court must accept the finding of Sharifah because she was the one who had cut open the body while the committee relied only on medical records, photos and slides to reach their conclusion.

Jamil will deliver his ruling on Oct 9 whether to uphold or reject the coroner’s verdict.

Early this year, the government filed a revision in the Seremban High Court to overturn the verdict of the coroner despite the adverse report by the medical committee.

Police had detained him on May 28, 2013 after his wife lodged a report that he had assaulted her following a quarrel at their home at Rumah Rakyat Taman Muhibbah in Gemencheh.

Karuna Nithi also lodged a report earlier in the day admitting he assaulted his wife because he could not take her verbal abuse.

He was taken to the Tampin magistrate’s court the following morning where a four-day remand order was issued.

On May 31, he was charged with causing hurt and was allowed bail of RM4,000 but was taken back to the lockup because his family could not post bail.


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