Liberia: Govt Yet to Accept Odell Sherman Family's Pathologist

Roger A. Mitchell, Jr., M.D. is the Chief Medical Examiner of Washington, DC (left) and late Odell Sherman (right) on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

Is exactly 89 days today after Odell Sherman's near-lifeless body was discovered at the home of Reverend Emmanuel Giddings in Duazohn, Margibi County, the Government of Liberia (GoL) is yet to accept the Curriculum Vitae (CV) of Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., which the family of the deceased submitted to authorities of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on July 22, 2019.

Dr. Roger Mitchell, Jr. is the Chief Medical Examiner of Washington, D.C., a position he has held since February 2014. He is licensed to practice medicine in Washington DC.

Dr. Mitchell has performed over 1,400 autopsy examinations in his career and has testified as an expert on numerous cases. He also is board certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology and a Fellow with the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). Dr. Mitchell has recently served as the National Co-Chair for the National Medical Association's (NMA) Working Group on Gun Violence and Police Use of Force.

Odell was a senior high school student of the Harriett Bailey United Methodist School. Having completed her West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), the afternoon prior to her death, she made her way tot he Giddings' residence, where she was discovered lying on the ground, unconscious during the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 22, 2019. She was later pronounced dead shortly after doctors at the ELWA Hospital, where she was rushed, examined her.

Odell's remains have since been reposed at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor along the Somalia Drive, awaiting government's investigation and subsequent examination by a pathologist.

But government's delay to conduct the expected autopsy on her body, has left the public to conclude that the government's decision not to approve the foreign-based pathologist is a ruse to protect those individuals, who allegedly murdered her.

A letter written by Odell's family, and signed by Alphonso O. Sherman, father of the deceased, reads:

"Dear Cllr. Dean,

"Greetings from the Sherman's Family.

"The family is grateful to the GoL for the attention and commitment made to pay for the independent pathologist that will be hired to conduct an autopsy on the remains of our late daughter, Odell P. Sherman.

"We acknowledged receipt of your letter stating that, according to the Liberia Medical Council, Dr. Rockefeller Cooper is not licensed to practice in Liberia, thereby disqualifying him from conducting an independent autopsy on the remains of our late daughter.

"In said regard, please see attached the Curriculum Vitae (CV) of Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., an independent pathologist, with whom negotiations will be concluded based on your feedback after the perusal of his credentials by you and the Liberia Medical Council," the letter concluded.

Since the communication was written to the Ministry of Justice on July 22 by Odell's family, the government is yet to confirm or deny their request.

It can be recalled that during the morning of July 3, 2019, Mrs. Cynthia Rivercess Sherman, mother of the late Odell Sherman, in a peaceful protest at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor, said with the conflicting information from both the Liberia National Police (LNP) spokesman, H. Moses Carter, and authorities of the ELWA Hospital, the family no longer trusts the government to conduct the autopsy on the remains of their daughter.

Roger A. Mitchell, Jr., M.D. is the Chief Medical Examiner of Washington, DC and has performed over 1,400 autopsy examinations in his career.

On July 4, a day after Mrs. Sherman's pronouncement, President George Weah assured a feminist group that the government had accepted the request of the family of the late Odell Sherman to bring in any independent pathologist of their choice, to conduct an autopsy on the remains of the deceased.

In a a meeting with the leadership of "March for Justice," a local non-governmental organization (NGO), President Weah further assured the family of the deceased that the government will take responsibility to pay the cost of hiring any qualified pathologist when brought in by the family of the late Odell Sherman.

President Weah said his commitment to fighting abuse, discrimination, and exploitation against women and girls remains strong and determined, and that justice against sexual predators will not be compromised.

President Weah said rape, domestic abuse, and sexual harassment have no place in any civilized society, vowing to visit the full force of the law upon perpetrators.

As it stands with the case of the late Odell's murder investigation, many Liberians, on various local radio talk shows, have described the President's self-anointed "Feminist-In-Chief" title as "mere bluff."

According to critics, being a "Feminist-In-Chief" should not be only in words but deeds, adding that selective justice is not the best way to end violence against women and girls.

The Human Rights Monitoring arm of the United Methodist Church (UMC) has also called for a speedy investigation, to bring to book those involved in the murder of Odell Sherman to have them face the full weight of the law.

In an exclusive interview, Jefferson Knight, UMC Program Director for Human Rights, told the Daily Observer on July 8, 2019, that even though Rev. Giddings is an elder in the Methodist Church, it is important that his family, the hospital and all those directly linked with Odell's murder case undergo investigation.

More on Dr. Roger A. Mitchell, Jr.

Dr. Mitchell is currently Chief Medical Examiner, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Washington, DC, a position he has held since February 2014. From March to July 2015, he served as Interim Director Department of Forensic Sciences for the City of Washington, DC. Prior to the posts in DC, Dr. Mitchell served in Assistant or Deputy Medical Examiner positions in Newark, New Jersey; Harris County, Texas and New York City.

A graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC and New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, Dr. Mitchell began the study of forensic science and violence prevention as a Forensic Biologist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - DNA Unit in January 1997.

Dr. Mitchell also has a strong academic footprint, having served as Adjunct Professor of Forensic Science at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland; and well as Chief Resident of Pathology at George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC.

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