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Dau Mabil’s brother goes back to court to get independent autopsy started

The brother of Dau Mabil, the Jackson man whose body was recovered from the Pearl River three weeks after he disappeared, is asking a judge to enforce an order to allow an independent autopsy to proceed. 

The state’s autopsy, released late last month, determined death by drowning by unknown cause. 

In a Monday court filing, Bul Mabil of Texas argues that his brother’s widow, Karissa Bowley, is preventing the second autopsy by vetoing his choice of a qualified forensic pathologist, Dr. Matthias Okoye of Nebraska. 

“This Court did not authorize Karissa Bowley to select or veto the pathologist to conduct the independent autopsy of Dau Garang Mabil,” Lisa Ross, Bul Mabil’s attorney, wrote in the order. 

The court set a requirement for the pathologist to be at least as qualified as pathologists who conduct autopsies for the State of Mississippi along with having certain degrees or certifications. Ross argues that Okoye meets the requirements set in the court order. 

Okoye is director of the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Sciences, a nonprofit organization that operates the forensic pathologist division of the coroner’s office for several counties in the state. 

He has investigated and certified over 15,000 deaths as a deputy and chief medical examiner and a coroner’s pathologist and has performed over 12,000 autopsies, according to his curriculum vitae included in court records. 

Spencer Bowley wrote in a Sunday email that his sister disagrees with Bul Mabil’s choice of Okoye, who Bowley noted was previously sued for providing false information in an autopsy report. 

“Dau deserves nothing less than to have all answerable questions answered regarding his death,” he wrote. “We will continue seeking to agree on a pathologist to pursue truth, rather than any individual person or organization’s agenda.”

More than a decade ago, a daycare provider sued Okoye, who authored the report used to charge her with felony child abuse for the death of a 6-week-old. The charges were later dropped. 

Okoye ruled the infant died from homicide from blunt force trauma to the head and asphyxiation. Pathologists hired by the plaintiff found the infant’s death was due to sudden infant death syndrome. 

In 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in the woman’s malicious prosecution lawsuit by reversing the lower court’s order to grant Okoye and his organization summary judgment, finding “differing reasonable inferences (that) could be drawn as to whether Okoye knowingly provided false or misleading information in his autopsy report.” 

Another forensic pathologist offered by Bul Mabil is Dr. Frank Peretti of Arkansas, but Ross wrote in the filing that he declined to conduct the autopsy because of a potential conflict of interest. 

Bowley has offered the names of four forensic pathologists, according to a Friday email from her attorney John David Sanford included in court records. 

Okoye has also conducted an independent autopsy for at least one other Mississippi resident: Lee Demond Smith, who died in the Harrison County Jail, according to an affidavit contained in the court records. His ruling disagreed with the county pathologist’s ruling. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, a court hearing had not been scheduled to consider the motion. 

The delay comes a week and a half after the Bowleys released the state’s autopsy results. 

That day, Ross began asking the Department of Public Safety’s attorney if Mabil’s body was ready to be released. She received confirmation about a week later. 

As part of requirements for the autopsy, the court set a 30-day window for the autopsy to be conducted. 

Now that Capitol Police have finished its investigation, Ross is asking the court to act so the autopsy can be done within 30 days of June 27, which is when she received confirmation. 

In May, Bowley agreed to allow a second autopsy, and Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas wrote that it would be paid for at Bul Mabil’s “direction and expense.” 

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