DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia’s high-stakes elections will decide the balance of power in the state government – and who will lead the prosecution in eight murder trials in the death of Irvo Otieno.
The eight people charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death are set for separate trials in 2024, most of which have been scheduled for later that year.
Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man, died in March after he was pinned down to the ground of Central State Hospital while handcuffed for roughly 11 minutes by Henrico sheriff’s deputies and workers at the psychiatric hospital. Ten people were initially charged, but charges were dropped against two hospital workers.
Before the cases go to trial, Dinwiddie voters will pick the county’s new top prosecutor, whose responsibilities will include prosecuting criminal felonies and misdemeanors. The commonwealth’s attorney also advises law enforcement and provides help in investigations.
Votes are already being cast in the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s race between Jonathan Bourlier and Amanda Mann. The Virginia Public Access Project shows that 2,298 early ballots have been submitted in Dinwiddie as of Oct. 26.
Bourlier was appointed as interim commonwealth’s attorney in June after the county’s previous top prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, resigned. Baskervill initially led the prosecution in Otieno’s case, which drew widespread attention, and brought charges against 10 people.
The order filed in Dinwiddie Circuit Court shows that county attorney Tyler C. Southhall informed the court that the county’s Board of Supervisors voted for a petition to be filed requesting that no special election be held and that Bourlier be appointed to serve in the interim role.
Mann raised transparency concerns over the decision, telling 8News she was not notified that her opponent in the race was appointed, but her main worry was over Bourlier’s lack of experience prosecuting cases.
After he was appointed in June, Bourlier admitted to 8News that he had no experience prosecuting cases and “not a lot” of experience in jury trials.
The winner — unless they resign or are removed — will lead the county’s prosecution during the jury trials set for the eight defendants – seven sheriff’s deputies and one hospital worker — in the Otieno case, who’ve all been charged with second-degree murder.
Here’s a list of when they are set to go to trial:
- Randy Boyer: Sep. 9, 2024 — Sept. 13, 2024
- Bradley Disse: Aug. 12, 2024 — Aug. 16, 2024
- Jermaine Branch: Aug. 5, 2024 — Aug. 9, 2024
- Dwayne Bramble: June 3, 2024 — June 7, 2024
- Kaiyell Sanders: Dec. 2, 2024 — Dec. 6, 2024
- Tabitha Levere: Oct. 28, 2024 — Nov. 1, 2024
- Wavie Jones: Sept. 30, 2024 — Oct. 4, 2024
- Branon Rodgers: Oct. 7, 2024 — Oct. 11, 2024
Otieno’s family reached an $8.5 million wrongful death settlement with Virginia, Henrico County and the county’s sheriff – a deal that did not admit any liability in his death but that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office said the governor wanted.
Surveillance video obtained and reviewed by 8News, which does not include sound, shows as many as 10 sheriff’s deputies and personnel at Virginia’s Central State Hospital pinning a handcuffed and shackled Otieno to the ground for about 11 minutes until he’s motionless.
The footage, obtained through a Dropbox link in public court records, shows Otieno being dragged into the psychiatric hospital at 4:19 p.m. on March 6, being restrained and pressed to the floor in a hospital admissions room and unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him after his body goes limp.
Police placed Otieno under an emergency custody order on March 3, three days before he died at Central State Hospital, following a reported burglary. Otieno’s family said he had a history of mental health struggles and that he was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time.
Before Otieno was transported to Central State Hospital, his family’s attorneys say he was taken from Parham Doctors’ Hospital to Henrico Jail West, claiming he was restrained for more than 11 hours in a chair, not given medication and was “severely beaten by Henrico County deputies.”