A jury acquitted two former sheriff’s deputies of involuntary manslaughter on Friday after the death of a black college student inside a Savannah, Georgia jail holding cell on New Year’s Day.
Matthew Ajibade, 22, died from blunt force trauma after he was tasered several times while strapped in a restraint chair.
A Chatham County Superior Court jury did convict the former deputies of lesser charges: Jason Kenny was found guilty of cruelty to an inmate, while Maxine Evans was found guilty of public records fraud and three counts of perjury for lying in her grand jury testimony.
A former licensed practical nurse, Gregory Brown, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter — but earlier this week, the judge granted a directed verdict of acquittal “after granting defense attorney Tom Withers’ argument that prosecutors had failed to prove a standard of care necessary to send the case to a hearing of evidence,” the Savannah Morning News reported.
Ajibade was arrested on New Year’s Day 2015 after a domestic dispute with a girlfriend who called the police. Although she told the police that he was bipolar and gave them a bottle of his medication, police took him to jail where they punched and kicked him in the face and head before several officers restrained him.
Inside the holding cell, Ajibade was stripped to his undergarments and handcuffed to a restraining chair. A camera attached to the police taser– which automatically records when the device is on — showed Ajibade screaming as he was stunned multiple times in his genitals.
[WARNING: Graphic video.]
Prosecutors argued that Ajibade was left in the restraining chair in a holding cell at 11:47 a.m. on January 1, then ignored between 12:09 a.m. and 1:38 a.m. on January 2. Evans, who was in charge of checking in on inmates in restraints chairs every 15 minutes, found Ajibade unresponsive.
When Evans was cross-examined by Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon, she said that Ajibade had been checked five times, but that she “generated the log prematurely because I knew one had to be done … The times don’t coincide with checks that were made. The checks were done. The times may be inaccurate.”
After hearing that the officers weren’t found guilty of the top charge, Ajibade’s cousin Chris Oladapo told NBC News, “I knew that that same system that failed Mathew would not be the system that got him justice. I had already warned my family not to expect anything.”
“We expected nothing, and we got nothing,” Oladapo added.
Though Ajibade was one of the first people to die at the hands of police officers in 2015, there have since been at least 782 people killed by police this year, the Washington Post reported. In October alone, police have killed 43 people, according to the tracking website Killed By Police.
This isn’t the only case where police officers weren’t convicted of the top charge. A chief prosecutor did not press criminal charges against Fairfax County, Virginia police officers last month after tasing a mentally ill woman four times. She was revived after her stopped her heart, but still died days later.
A 2012 study found that half of all people killed by police have a mental illness. Inmates with mental illness are routinely abused by corrections officers. A Human Rights Watch report found that officers often beat inmates bloody, breaking their body parts, and used stun guns and chemical sprays.