Inquest seeks answers in death of Remand Centre inmate with epilepsy
Errol Greene died after suffering two seizures at Remand Centre on May. 1, 2016
Errol Greene's widow, Rochelle Pranteau, listened on the phone for 20 minutes while he suffered a seizure on the floor of the Winnipeg Remand Centre. She didn't hear anything else about her husband until hours later, after he died.
Now, the family hopes an inquest, that begins Monday, answers long-standing questions around his death.
Manitoba's office of the chief medical examiner called for the inquest after Greene's Death on May 1, 2016. The 26-year-old father of three lived with epilepsy that he managed with medication, but the autopsy report says Green didn't have enough of the medication in his system when he died.
Green was in the Remand Centre after allegedly breaching bail conditions. Family say he wasn't given his medication by Remand Centre staff.
Lawyer Corey Shefman is representing Greene's wife, who will be the first person to testify at the inquiry on Monday.
"Having to relive all of that is really traumatic," said Shefman. "I can't imagine it personally. I'm in awe of Rochelle and her strength in going forward."
The inquest will seek to answer why Greene didn't have enough medication in his system, among other questions, including what role systemic racism might have played.
"I want answers. I want justice for other families going through the same thing as my family. I want to expose the truth about what really happens on the inside, how poorly people are treated," Pranteau said in a statement released by Shefman.
Other parties granted the right to testify at the inquest include Manitoba Corrections, the Winnipeg Police Service, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the John Howard Society.
The inquest will also seek to answer why Greene was handcuffed, shackled, and held face down when guards responded after he had his seizure.
"These are things which may not have made the seizures themselves worse, but certainly would have impacted how he reacted afterward," Shefman said, noting the paramedics who came to treat Greene wrote in their report that the restraints made it more difficult for them to treat him.
Greene's widow Pranteau — who was pregnant at the time with her and Greene's fourth child — also wants to know why she wasn't told what had happened to him until hours later, after he had died.
"The inquest is an opportunity for us to be in open court with a provincial court judge and questioning not just the managers and policy makers, but the individual corrections officers who were there when he had his seizure, the nurse who didn't give him his medication," Shefman said.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to really getting down to the bottom of why Errol died and whether it could have been prevented."
Death in custody
The paramedics took Greene to hospital, but he was pronounced dead hours later. According to the autopsy report the immediate cause of death was "acute hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy," which simply stated means a sudden lack of oxygen to the brain.
In addition to Greene, several other Remand Centre inmates died in 2016. Although the inquest will only deal with Greene's death, Shefman says all parties should keep those other deaths in mind throughout the proceedings.
Shefman successfully argued that the issue of systemic racism should be included within the scope of Green's inquest. Nearly 70 per cent of the inmates are Indigenous, Shefman said.
"I think corrections needs to do a better job of implementing its policies in a way which acknowledges the intense systemic racism in our justice system."
Greene's death sparked protests and calls for reforms within Manitoba Corrections.
Shefman says he hopes the inquest will lead to better training for guards, and better treatment of inmates,
"60 per cent of whom, are not convicted of a crime," he added.
Testimony at the inquest is expected to last 15 days.