In January of last year, 39-year-old Charlene Teresa Sakamoto died while in the custody of Chilliwack RCMP, and now the BC Coroners Service has scheduled a public inquest into her death.
Any death that is unnatural, unexpected, unexplained, or unattended must be reported to a coroner, who then investigates the matter. However, an inquest is almost always mandatory if the deceased was in the care of a police officer, or contained in a police lock-up at the time of their death.
On Jan. 18, 2017, Sakamoto became unresponsive while in the back of a Chilliwack RCMP patrol vehicle, and resuscitation efforts at the Chilliwack General Hospital were unsuccessful.
So the BC Coroners Service will be holding a public inquest about her death.
Composed of a coroner and a five-person jury, inquests are formal court proceedings held to publicly review the circumstances of a death. On Oct. 9, 2018, presiding coroner Margaret Janzen and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding Sakamoto’s death.
The jury will also have the opportunity to make recommendations that will hopefully prevent deaths under similar situations, but they’re not able to make any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law.
At the end of the inquest, a Verdict at Inquest is prepared, which includes the classification of the death and, whenever possible, recommendations of how to prevent a similar death.