Published Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 | 1:21 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 | 3:05 p.m.
Change is coming to the coroner’s inquest system, the process Clark County uses to ferret out the facts of a killing by police.
By Dec. 7, a committee consisting of a retired state Supreme Court judge, and a member from each of the ACLU, the NAACP, Metro Police, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the police union, the coroner and a UNLV law professor will return to the commission with a proposed changed county ordinance.
The current process involves a county prosecutor picking witnesses, including the police officers, and questioning them in a quasi-judicial forum. At the end of the hearing, a jury panel decides if the shooting was justified, excused or criminal.
It’s controversial because parties outside of the police department have, for decades, complained they don’t get a fair shake in asking questions and they believe the district attorney is on the side of police.
Commissioner Steve Sisolak asked that the group look at specific ideas: drug testing for officers involved in fatal shootings; allowing cross-examinations by attorneys for family members of the deceased, and potentially other parties; let attorneys for the officer ask questions; and at the hearing’s end, have no verdict. Instead, it would be up to the district attorney to decide if the case warranted civil or criminal charges.
“The goal of this is to arrive at the truth,” Sisolak said.
CORRECTION: This story originally reported the group would return to the commission with a proposed changed county ordinance on Nov. 7. It was corrected to Dec. 7. | (October 5, 2010)