Palm Island
December 14, 2006 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Palm Island off Queensland’s stunning north coast is one of the most beautiful places on earth, well maybe not if you’re an Australian Aborigine. Mulrunji Doomadgee, a fit, healthy, 36-year-old man, died in police custody on Palm Island on 19 November 2004 following his arrest by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley on a charge of "public nuisance". Yet Queensland DPP Leanne Clare has described the death as "a terrible accident’ caused by a ‘complicated fall’. [via crikey.com.au- subs req’d]
posted by mattoxic (10 comments total)

 
A coronial inquest [pdf] conducted by Queensland’s Acting State Coroner, Christine Clements, found that that Mulrunji died due to ‘blood loss caused by rupture of the liver consequent upon blunt compressive force to the upper abdomen.’ Clements found that the initial arrest was ‘not an appropriate exercise of police discretion’.

Forensic pathologist Dr Guy Lampe performed an autopsy on Mulrunji’s body at Cairns' Base Hospital mortuary on 23 November 2004 and found that the deceased’s liver was "almost cleaved in two". The right side of his rib-cage showed fractures of four ribs "from the sixth to the ninth inclusively"

More here via NZ Herald
posted by mattoxic at 8:26 PM on December 14, 2006


"You have the right not to trip and fall on the way down to the cells"

That's quite a "fall"
posted by edgeways at 8:34 PM on December 14, 2006


Paradise, hell, same difference. What good is the beauty of the earth if we can make it a prison?

*despairs*
posted by bobobox at 8:41 PM on December 14, 2006


A recent ABC program, Line in the Sand, interviewed officials and residents and got some pretty sensible points of view, I thought. It seems that the government people are at their wits' end about what to do, and there is mainland sentiment for just moving everyone to the mainland where they can get jobs, services, and so forth, but the Islanders resist this and want some simple reforms including the reinstatement of a criminal rehabilitation program and a locally-designed HIV treatment program, in addition to converting the state store to a co-op. There are other ideas, not all enthusiastically received, such as the complex transitioning of tribal title-in-common to private land ownership.
posted by dhartung at 10:07 PM on December 14, 2006


My take on it, mostly from the papers, is that the cop (Hurley) was having a particularly bad day, decided to arrest a drunken Aborigine (Doomadgee) who he'd normally have left alone. Doomadgee either hit Hurley, vomited on him, said something annoying, or otherwise did something to annoy Hurley, who punched Doomadgee in the stomach with the intent of punishing him for the slight, and taking the wind out of him to make him easier to handle. Hurley hit Doomadgee hard in the liver, and due to Doomadgee's history of extreme drunkenness, his liver was very badly damaged, and he shortly after died in the station cell. If anyone had looked in on Doomadgee in the cell (and they should have), he appeared to them to be sleeping, and wasn't checked closely.

I find it extremely unlikely that Hurley murdered Doomadgee; there's nothing here that indicates that Hurley intended that Doomadgee should die, which is what makes murder distinct from manslaughter. Had he wanted Doomadgee to die, he could have simply drawn his gun and shot the man. So, was his action in gutpunching Doomadgee, as hard as a large, strong man can, so careless of Doomadgee's life and health as to meet the legal definition of manslaughter? Secondarily, was his failure to carefully check on Doomadgee in the cell (as opposed to looking in to see him apparently sleeping off his drunk) dereliction of duty?

The chief prosecutor doesn't think so, and she has little to personally gain--and a lot to personally lose--if she were lying in that opinion. Certainly Hurley, who ironically apparently had the confidence of the Palm Island community prior to his killing Doomadgee, has lost the community's confidence, and has to be posted elsewhere if he is to continue as a police officer.

The lives of the Palm Island Aborigines are pretty miserable, and they have far more than their share of drunks, thieves, rapists, wife-beaters, bullies, etc. Various governments at various times have tried to raise their living standards and prospects, with little success. It seems clear to me that Doomadgee didn't deserve to die, Hurley didn't mean to kill him, and it's yet another Palm Island tragedy.

As to the more general question, people both smarter than myself and more knowledgeable of Aboriginal sociology and psychology have failed to raise Aboriginal living standards. I'd like to see a national apology to the Aborigines, I certainly think it's warranted; but I have no solution to the problem. That said, I think we as a nation ought to be working on finding one, rather than just shrugging it off.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:24 PM on December 14, 2006


Yeah, it was an appalling decision that the DPP made.

That said, I'm not a lawyer, but I have heard some legal minds actually back the DPPs decision. So maybe when all of us are attacking this decision, it might possibly bear keeping in mind that if we're not lawyers then we may not actually know what we're talking about.

And that said, whether I'm a lawyer or not, I still think this was a disgraceful decision by the DPP. And whatever else, this whole thing is just one great big tragedy, from beginning to end. I'm sad for the family and I'm sad for the country too.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:30 PM on December 14, 2006


Effigy2000: My take on it, mostly from the papers, is that the cop (Hurley) was having a particularly bad day, decided to arrest a drunken Aborigine (Doomadgee) who he'd normally have left alone. Doomadgee either hit Hurley, vomited on him, said something annoying, or otherwise did something to annoy Hurley, who punched Doomadgee in the stomach with the intent of punishing him for the slight, and taking the wind out of him to make him easier to handle. Hurley hit Doomadgee hard in the liver, and due to Doomadgee's history of extreme drunkenness, his liver was very badly damaged, and he shortly after died in the station cell. If anyone had looked in on Doomadgee in the cell (and they should have), he appeared to them to be sleeping, and wasn't checked closely.

You don't just pop an adult male in the gut and break 4 of their ribs. That's the kind of thing that requires significant effort, like knocking them down and kicking them repeatedly.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2006


Oops, attributed that quote to the wrong person. it was aeschenkarnos not Effigy2000. Sorry, it was a long post, I read the wrong name.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:38 AM on December 15, 2006


You don't just pop an adult male in the gut and break 4 of their ribs...posted by Mitrovarr

Agreed. That seemed a bloody great flaw to me too in aeschenkarnos' weirdly mincingly worded statement.

What gives exactly, aeschenkarnos?

There's something curious about your paragraph: "So, was his action in gutpunching Doomadgee, as hard as a large, strong man can, so careless of Doomadgee's life and health as to meet the legal definition of manslaughter? Secondarily, was his failure to carefully check on Doomadgee in the cell (as opposed to looking in to see him apparently sleeping off his drunk) dereliction of duty?"

It was your use of italics in "carefully".

I followed everything else you wrote and thought it was interesting and obviously not dashed off.

But, given the circumstances, that's a very strange picture you're painting of an apparently standard slumbering drunk and an innocently incompetent cop - when surely we accept the cop gave the dead victim one hell of a wallop?

Possibly I'm getting your tone wrong?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:09 AM on December 15, 2006


Reminds me of the "Cry Freedom" end credits when they list all of the deaths in prison, from "slipped in shower" and "fell while changing lightbulb".
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2006


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