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Inquest now in jury’s hands

September 24, 2004

Local News - MIDLAND – A jury began its deliberations Thursday into the mystery surrounding the death of a superjail prisoner who died from a simple cut on his finger.

The deliberations began after almost two weeks of evidence at a coroner’s inquest that explored the death of Jeffrey Elliott, 20, of Beachburg, who was an inmate at the Central North Correctional Centre, referred to as the ‘superjail.’

Elliott died of a type of blood poisoning Aug. 29, 2003.

The five-member jury has heard evidence of Elliott’s troubled life, wrought with emotional problems.

The young man was just three weeks away from his release date after serving time for robbing a McDonald’s restaurant in Pembroke, armed with an aluminum baseball bat and a steak knife.

Presiding coroner Dr. Peter Savage warned the jury that it is prohibited from laying blame or finding any legal responsibility in Elliott’s death.

“You must not find ways either to blame or to vindicate,” he told the jury.

“Rather, you must look at the events surrounding the death that may lead to conclusions of ways to prevent another death in similar circumstances.”

Throughout the inquest, the jury has heard conflicting evidence of how it came to be that a relatively minor cut became so infected that deadly toxins seeped through Elliott’s body and eventually sent him into shock and coma.

The jury has heard from former inmates who testified their buddy tried in vain to get help for his bleeding finger after he cut it on the food hatch of a cell, but was ignored. And it has heard from prison medical staff who testified that Elliott did indeed receive immediate help for the cut that needed two stitches.

The jury also heard from an expert witness who testified prison medical staff “missed the boat” in the treatment of Elliott and that instead of overloading him with antibiotics that may have made him even sicker, he should have been kept in a hospital under critical care. Instead he was kept in his cell and given ice and Tylenol to relieve the painful swelling of his dangerously infected hand.

Each day Elliott’s father and grandmother, Tom and Elizabeth, sit in the courtroom and clutch a photograph of Jeffrey as they quietly listen to the details of how he died.

“I’m glad I know the details now,” said the father. “But I will lose sleep at night now, knowing how he suffered … it’s hard.”

The jury is expected to bring back its findings and recommendations today.

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