Letty Scott is an inspiration and a role model. For the last twenty years, she’s fought to prove that her husband, Douglas, did not commit suicide in Darwin’s Berrimah prison but was murdered by prison officers. Letty has built support for her campaign for justice and patiently gathered evidence. Earlier this year, she had Doug’s body exhumed for a new autopsy. A Brazilian forensic expert found evidence that lesions on the body were consistent with torture. This evidence was part of a civil case in which Letty, and son Nathan, brought before the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
Suicide finding not upheld. On June 16, Justice Angel ruled against Letty and Nathan’s claim. He found that “the plaintiffs have not established to my satisfaction that the deceased was murdered by the defendant prison officers.” However, Angel also said, “on the evidence before me I am unable to be satisfied that the deceased took his own life.” He noted that the prison officers had “ample opportunity to murder the deceased in his cell in the manner alleged.” He further ruled that “the evidence of witnesses Bindai and Percy [who testified that they saw prison guards going into Doug’s cell, heard him cry out for help and later saw blood being cleaned up] cannot be dismissed out of hand.” Angel criticised the police investigation as inadequate and said, “ the crime scene was not adequately secured.” He dismissed the claim, not because he was convinced by the suicide claims but on the technical ground that Letty and Nathan had not met the onerous burden of proof required.
Take to the streets. On hearing the verdict, Letty told reporters that the justice system was “protecting killers in uniform.” While the result is a blow to Letty and Nathan, pursuing justice through the courts — while a necessary step to take — will always present risks. Justice Angel’s ruling must be publicised and used as a motivation to take to the streets and demand an end to the ongoing Indigenous deaths in police and prison custody. Letty and Nathan have vowed they will “never rest until Australia jails these murderers.” Let’s turn up the heat!