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Tuesday, June 9, 2015 - 12:14pm

Lawsuit Calls For Chatham Co. DA's Removal From Case In Inmate's Death

The lawyer for a man who died in custody at the Chatham County Detention Center is asking the county’s district attorney to be taken off the case.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims District Attorney Meg Heap can’t be impartial in the case of Matthew Ajibade, whose death was ruled a homicide. It points to another suit filed by Heap and the county sheriff regarding the case, alleging that aligns her with the sheriff - a potential criminal defendant. The lawsuit also alleges Heap has political ties to the sheriff and an interest in the outcome of the case because her office oversees inspection of the jail. It claims Heap has “failed to instruct the Grand Jury to inspect” the jail as required by law.

Attorney Will Claiborne represents Ajibade’s family. "The concern is that the District Attorney and the sheriff may work together to try to shift all of the blame for what happened onto low-ranking employees without looking at the true nature of the system that caused this death to occur," he says.

The incident has prompted an outside review of procedures at the Chatham County Detention Center. But attorney Claiborne says that doesn’t change what happened.

"You can’t undo a crime by attempting to reform the system going forward," he says. "That does nothing for the victim of the crime, for Matthew Ajibade."

In a statement, Heap declined to discuss the lawsuit, citing state rules barring lawyers from discussing open cases. She says she'll file a formal response and objection in court.