• The inquest into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison continues. (ABC)Source: ABC
Nineteen SA prison guards attempt to have a state coroner removed from an inquest into the death of an Aboriginal man, arguing that there is a risk of 'apprehended bias'.
By
Douglas Smith

Source:
NITV News
28 Nov 2019 - 10:16 PM  UPDATED 28 Nov 2019 - 10:17 PM

Nineteen South Australia correctional officers on Tuesday attempted to have a coroner removed from an inquest into the death in custody of an Aboriginal man due to a risk of "apprehended bias".

The prison guards put forward a conflict of interest argument in the supreme court against deputy coroner Jayne Basheer, saying she should be removed from the inquest because she once acted in a matter where the fees were paid for by the Correctional Officers Legal Fund. 

The coronial inquest into the 2016 death in custody of Kokatha, Wirangu and Wiradjuri man, Wayne Fella Morrison, 29, has already seen seven guards lose a bid in the SA Coroner's Court last December to avoid giving evidence when they claimed doing so could leave them liable to civil or disciplinary action.  

In addition to arguing in the supreme court on Tuesday that Ms Basheer should be removed from the inquest, the prison guards have also challenged the inquest, arguing they should have a right to silence when asked to provide evidence that may implicate them in wrongdoing or negligence.  

Ms Basheer and the Coroner's Court opposed her removal.

On 23 September, 2016 Mr Morrison was restrained and placed face-down by 14 correctional officers in a prison transport van. Mr Morrison was unresponsive when he was later removed from the van.

The incident was caught on CCTV at Adelaide’s high security Yatala Labour Prison.  

After failing to regain consciousness, Mr Morrison died three days later in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

His family have been searching for answers since the death. 

Sibling speaks out

Mr Morrison's sister, Latoya Rule, spoke to NITV News on Thursday and said the family wanted to know what happened to Wayne and to "ensure that there is transparency and accountability".

"To me, removing the Coroner at this point would pull into question the role and purpose of all Coroner's inquests, particularly in Aboriginal deaths in custody cases," said Ms Rule. 

"My family have had to wait over 3 years to hear that we now have to sit in the supreme court - it is frustrating and distressing.

"If our case can work toward changes that keep other peoples safe and alive, then we must keep pushing on. Wayne’s death will not be in vain," she said. 

Since the inquest began in August last year, several hearings have been held, with evidence given by health providers, experts and some of the prison guards. 

However, those who were travelling in the van with Morrison have not given evidence. 

Three missing minutes, and more questions: Why did Wayne Fella Morrison die in custody?
As the gruelling two-month inquest continues, the family of Aboriginal man Wayne Fella Morrison want someone to be held accountable for his death.