Lawyer: FBI ruled Shanquella Robinson death inconclusive

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Shanquella Robinson Demise Investigation

The 25-year-old Charlotte woman died whilst on holiday vacation in Cabo, Mexico.

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An FBI-ordered autopsy of Shanquella Robinson’s body came back inconclusive, and is part of why federal officials won’t press charges, according to an attorney for her family.

Attorney Sue-Ann Robinson said Wednesday the family is “disappointed but not deterred” by the FBI’s decision to end its investigation into the 25-year-old Charlotte woman’s death. The Department of Justice said Wednesday it will not seek criminal charges in the case. Robinson blamed this decision on an investigative delay.

Previously, Mexican authorities performed an autopsy and determined Robinson’s cause of death to be “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation” — a broken neck.

Robinson, 25, died under suspicious circumstances a day after she arrived in Cabo, Mexico. She was on a vacation with six people in October. A viral video circulating after her death sparked international outrage. The video shows a naked, barely verbal Robinson being hit repeatedly over the head.

On the day she died, her traveling companions called for medical help and an ambulance to treat her, according to previous reporting by The Charlotte Observer. During this treatment Robinson became unresponsive and had seizures.

The FBI opened an investigation into her death a month later.

“There’s no reason why a Black woman should go on vacation with her friends, be returned to her family in a box, and nothing will be done for five months,” attorney Robinson said on Wednesday. “Because justice delayed can be justice denied.”

Robinson — who is not related to Shanquella Robinson — said the FBI’s autopsy listed her manner of death “undetermined.” She said the autopsy found Robinson did not have a spinal cord injury but that she did have swelling on her brain. She said the FBI waited until after the body was embalmed and that this discrepancy from the Mexican autopsy and death certificate is a direct result of that delay.

As part of the investigation, according to attorney Robinson, the FBI reviewed video footage of Robinson being beaten, interviewed her six traveling companions, and conducted the autopsy.

The FBI would not comment on why the video of Robinson being beaten before her death was not considered enough evidence of a crime being committed but said in a statement to The Charlotte Observer: “All available evidence was reviewed.”

“Based on the results of the autopsy and after a careful deliberation and review of the investigative materials by both U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal prosecutors informed Ms. Robinson’s family today that the available evidence does not support a federal prosecution,” said U.S. Attorneys Sandra J. Hairston and Dena J. King in a joint statement Wednesday.

Robinson said “there’s two different justice systems in America.”

“Black and Brown people always have to carve their own path to justice,” Robinson said.

Shanquella Robinson lawyers

Robinson’s story has gone viral and Mexican authorities have issued an arrest warrant for femicide (similar to homicide) for Daejhanae Jackson, one of the six travelers, according to Sue-Ann Robinson who said she has reviewed Mexico’s investigative documents.

To date, no U.S. law enforcement or government official has acknowledged by name a suspect.

It is unclear what impact the Department of Justice’s announcement could have on extradition matters.

When asked about extradition, the FBI would not comment and instead referred the Observer to the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs.

Previously, attorneys for the family, Robinson and Benjamin Crump, called on the White House and senior diplomatic officials to act on an extradition request from Mexico. But on Wednesday, Sue-Ann Robinson would not say whether a formal extradition request is pending.

“We hope that there is still a chance at justice in Mexico,” Crump and Robinson said in a joint statement. “Mexican prosecutors have issued arrest warrants in this case and are willing to pursue charges. We strongly encourage The United States to move forward with the extradition of those responsible for her death to Mexico to face accountability there.”

The outcome of the FBI’s investigation was not unexpected, Robinson said. She said the family and their legal team will continue to seek justice and call for diplomatic intervention.

“On behalf of the family, again, (we are) very deeply disappointed but we’re not deterred because it’s something that we’ve seen before,” Robinson said. “We know that we have to carve our own path to justice.”

If no extradition or diplomatic intervention takes place, activists have planned a May 19 march to the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

Robinson and Crump previously sent a letter to the White House in March calling for intervention in the case and naming Jackson as a suspect. At a press event in March they said they planned to meet with political leaders after April 1. This meeting has not yet happened and they are being shuffled around to other offices, Robinson said Wednesday.

This tale was at first published April 12, 2023, 4:34 PM.

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Kallie Cox covers public security for The Charlotte Observer. They grew up in Springfield, Illinois and attended college at SIU Carbondale. They documented on law enforcement accountability and LGBTQ immigration limitations for the Pulitzer Middle on Disaster Reporting. And, they earlier labored at The Southern Illinoisan prior to shifting to Charlotte.
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