Probe Into Daniel Smith's Death Questioned

Court officials say there may not be an inquest if the cause of Daniel Smith's death is deemed natural

Photo: Lisa RoseJPI

There may not be an inquest into the death of Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel if the cause is determined to be natural, Bahamas Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez told reporters Wednesday afternoon in Nassau.

The announcement is a radical departure from previous statements by Bahamian officials calling the 20-year-old’s sudden death "not natural" and "suspicious." An inquest had been scheduled for the week of Oct. 23.

Gomez said that a final decision will be made by Chief Justice Burton Hall after toxicology reports are in from Dr. Govinda Raju, who performed the first autopsy on Daniel (Smith hired a private pathologist to do a second). If the cause of death is deemed not natural, then an inquest will take place – although the date could be moved up earlier “because of the intense media scrutiny,” Gomez said.

“We don’t even know if it will be the case” that an inquest will be required, Gomez said, “so I believe it was a bit premature” to call the cause of death “not natural.”

Her Majesty’s Coroner Linda P. Virgill said, however, that her call for an inquest was proper and should go forward.

“This requires a coroner’s inquest. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to make certain determinations at the end of the day,” Virgill told reporters Wednesday. “Certain calls may not be popular, but the buck stops with me.”

Usually, Gomez said, the pathologist gives his report to police, who then go to the Attorney General – who decides whether the evidence warrants an inquest. At this point in the Daniel Smith case, the pathologist’s report has not been completed, so the Attorney General has not yet been asked to make a decision regarding an inquest, he said.

Virgill, however, disputes that claim, saying that it’s not necessary for the police to get the information from the pathologist, but normally conduct their own investigation.

Gomez also said death inquests will now be handled by a pool of magistrates – including Virgill – in order to speed up those cases for everyone. Since Daniel Smith’s death, he said, locals had complained that foreigners were getting special treatment.

Virgill also disputed that statement, calling the question of preferential treatment “nonsense. At the end of the day, visitors are our guests and ought to be given attention because our economy floats on that.”

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