A judicial clerk working on the murder investigation of President Jovenel Moïse was found dead Thursday inside a room at the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince. In the days prior, Ernst Lafortune was preparing to leave the job, his colleagues said.
It is not yet clear what caused the death of Lafortune and the circumstances appear suspicious. Published reports suggest that Lafortune, who was asthmatic, accidentally inhaled tear gas during a clash between gangs and police in Martissant on Wednesday. However, a preliminary report of Lafortune’s body states he had a broken arm and several bruises, according to the Haitian National Association of Clerk Workers, or ANAGH.
In a public statement, ANAGH said it rejects the preliminary cause of death and asked government commissioner Bed-Ford Claude to investigate Lafortune’s death. The note also calls on the justice ministry to ensure the safety of court clerks working on sensitive cases.
Lafortune was assigned to the office of lead prosecutor Judge Mathieu Chanlatte, freshly appointed to investigate the assassination of Moise. Lafortune had told Chanlatte he planned to quit and had begun an inventory of the cases he was handling in preparation for that departure, according to Martin Ainé, president of the ANAGH.
“Lafortune told me he would quit his position because he had a dispute with the prosecutor [over] the processing of the file of the assassination of President Moise,” Ainé told The Haitian Times Thursday.
Lafortune’s death is a shock to the many prosecutors, justices of the peace and clerks working in the judicial system. Many were already fearful for their safety, following reports of the investigators receiving threats and having to go into hiding.