DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Two Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies charged with second-degree murder in connection with the March 6 death of Irvo Otieno in custody appeared in Dinwiddie County Circuit Court Wednesday for pre-trial hearings. While those hearings were rescheduled for a later date, the Commonwealth’s Attorney filed a motion to join the cases of all 10 defendants in one, singular trial.
Deputies Randy Boyer and Bradley Disse appeared before Chief Judge Joseph Teefey Jr. for the first of a series of court appearances scheduled over the next few weeks for the suspects in Otieno’s death at Central State Hospital. But court documents obtained by 8News showed that Boyer had recently retained a new attorney — Stephen Mutnick — and was “requesting additional time to review evidence that was field with the Court on April 17, 2023 to determine how he wants to proceed in this case.”
That aforementioned evidence referenced a five-page autopsy report and three-page toxicology report, which, although sealed from public view, were filed with the Dinwiddie County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office on April 17. Three days prior, 8News reported that defense attorneys representing the 10 suspects in these cases, as well as Otieno’s family and the Dinwiddie County Circuit Court Clerk himself, had not yet obtained these files from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, despite the completion of the reports.
Boyer’s pre-trial hearing was continued to May 24.
Deputy Disse also appeared before Judge Teefey Wednesday morning. Similarly, his court appeared was continued, with a tentatively rescheduled date of June 28. Disse has been represented by Peter Baruch and Ed Nickel, the same defense that served as counsel for Richmond Police Officer Richard Johnson in an involuntary manslaughter case, which resulted in Johnson’s conviction late Tuesday night. Both the judge and Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill cited that trial and the delayed verdict as an additional reason in support of continuation.
However, even before the conclusion of this week’s two-day trial for the Richmond officer, Baruch and Nickel on Tuesday filed a motion to continue Disse’s status hearing, citing Baskervill’s intention “to file a Motion for Joinder, but has not yet done so.”
Dated documents show that the above mentioned joinder was filed Wednesday.
“Virginia law directs that a court shall join defendants when they’re all charged with a crime that occurred simultaneously with all of them involved in it,” legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Ali Amirshahi told 8News. “The court would rather try the case one time rather than 10 times, but you want to make sure that each defendant’s rights are protected.”
Citing a United States Supreme Court case in her motion, Baskervill wrote that “joint trials ‘play a vital role in the criminal justice system.’ They promote efficiency and ‘serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.'” She also provided previously unreleased details about what happened at Central State Hospital on March 6, after Otieno was transferred there from Henrico Jail West while in mental distress.
“At 1640 hours, an injection of Olanzapine and Diphenhydramine was administered to Otieno by a nurse at the facility,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney said in the motion. “State Police discovered that, prior to State Police arrival, the handcuffs and leg-irons that had been placed on Otieno by the Henrico Sheriff’s Office at the Henrico Jail prior to transport had been cleaned and placed back in Henrico transport vehicles.”
Olanzapine is an antipsychotic medication used to treat mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine — commonly referred to by its brand name Benadryl — used for the symptomatic relief of allergies. Although there are multiple warnings about potential adverse affects with the combined administration of the two, the injections were not cited by the Office of the Chief Medical examiner in the stated cause and manner of death.
“[The] autopsy examination determined the cause of Irvo Otieno’s death to be positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints and the manner of death to be homicide,” Baskervill said in the motion for joinder. “The prone position, in the setting of someone with obesity, is restrictive to breathing. The position was not the main reason for death but it certainly did not help. Likewise, the restraints increased Otieno’s anxiety, hearth rate, and respiratory rate, further putting him at risk for acute arrhythmia, particularly since his heart was enlarged.”
Baskervill added in her motion that the autopsy examination was unable to determine which defendant was on which of Otieno’s body parts at any given time.
“Practically speaking, if there are 10 defendants, is the courtroom in Dinwiddie County capable of having 10 defendants and 10 lawyers and 20 deputies, and all of that?” Amirshahi said. “But, probably, all 10 aren’t going to end up going to trial. Some of them could end up being witnesses for the state. Some of them might end up pleading guilty.”
Amirshahi said that, next, defense attorneys will files an objection to Baskervill’s motion, which will then prompted a contested hearing.
“If this case is joined and, say, four or five defendants go to trial, the jury can very well find one or more defendants guilty and the rest not guilty, or any combination of that,” he said. “They’re not bound to do the same for each one. In fact, they’re directed to evaluate each case separately.”
Additional defendants have court appearances scheduled for May 3 and May 10.