Georgia DA Accused |of Conflict of Interest

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     (CN) – Relatives of a man who died in Georgia police custody say the district attorney investigating his death has a conflict of interest.
     Adenike Ajibade, Solomon Ajibade and Christopher Oladapo sued Chatham County, Ga. District Attorney Meg Heap in state court this week. Their petition for mandamus and disqualification claims her relationship with the sheriff should bar her involvement in a death investigation.
     Mathew Ajibade was allegedly killed while he was an arrestee in the custody of Chatham County Sheriff deputies earlier this year. His family members say Heap and Sheriff Al St. Lawrence sued WSAV to block the release of records about his death.
     “Both Heap and Sheriff St. Lawrence are seeking a court order debarring the Ajibade family and the public from records which would reveal the circumstances of Mathew Ajibade’s death,” the petition states. “By voluntarily inserting herself into [the records case] on the side of a potential criminal defendant and sharing a lawyer with that defendant, defendant Heap has placed herself in opposition to the victim’s family.”
     The family says Heap received campaign contributions from St. Lawrence in 2012 and the two campaigned together, sharing the same political consultant. Their petition alleges that the district attorney has “refused to investigate or prosecute individuals or entities that contributed to her election,” and the Ajibade family fears she will not investigate the sheriff.
     “Defendant Heap performed no investigation into this case for approximately five months after Mathew Ajibade’s death. Rather, defendant Heap ignored her responsibility to review and investigate the criminal death of an inmate in her jurisdiction, and instead deferred her responsibilities to other law enforcement agencies, opting to sidestep an investigation which would have led to the doorstep of Sheriff St. Lawrence, and, eventually, to her own failures regarding her obligations to inspect the Chatham County Jail,” the complaint states. “Since receiving an investigative report from the GBI, defendant Heap and Sheriff St. Lawrence have openly coordinated with each other in an attempt to shift one hundred percent of the blame for Mathew’s death onto lower ranking officers and to conceal information from the Ajibade family and public records from the public.”
     A statement from Heap in a Fox 6 WBRC story says she cannot discuss the filing and will let the matter play out in court.
     “Georgia’s Rules of Professional Conduct prevents attorneys from discussing open cases. I am bound by this law as are all attorneys. This matter as well as any other matter pertaining to this case should be tried in a court of law to ensure justice for all involved. If not, the criminal justice system runs the risk of being compromised for personal agendas,” Heap’s statement reads. “A formal response and objection will be filed with the court and heard in the court and not in the media.”
     The Ajibades and Oladapo seek a court order disqualifying Heap’s office from investigating or presenting criminal charges related to Mathew’s death. They are represented by William Claiborne in Savannah, Ga.