Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Nevada Supreme Court orders stay of coroner’s inquest

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Clark County officials not to conduct a coroner’s inquest planned for Thursday — the first such inquest under controversial new procedures more favorable to family members of people killed by police.

The court temporarily stayed the inquest until at least May 11 so that it has more time to review briefs filed by county officials and attorneys for Nevada Highway Patrol officers challenging the new inquest procedures.

Highway Patrol officers, who were present when Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez died in August 2010 after being Tasered, last week asked the court for an emergency injunction to block the inquest proceedings while issues about the legality of the new process are litigated.

“Having reviewed the parties’ filings and supporting documents, we conclude that a temporary stay is warranted to allow for consideration of the motion,” the court wrote in Wednesday’s order halting Thursday’s inquest.

Both sides will now have time to file additional briefs in the case. It’s unclear if there will be further delays beyond May 11.

The Clark County Commission has argued the new procedures are fair to police officers in that the inquest process remains a fact-finding exercise.

Attorneys for the Highway Patrol officers say the process is adversarial, pitting police against family members of people killed and is geared toward finding them guilty of misconduct.

The County Commission in 2010 approved new inquest procedures in which an ombudsman is appointed to represent the family of the person killed by police and key evidence and investigative files will be released.

Those changes were ordered after critics said the old system always favored police.

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  1. From what I can find, there have been about 150 inquests since 1976. Of those only *one* resulted in a finding of criminally negligent. And that single case, when presented to a grand jury, resulted in a refusal to indict.

    While it would be nice to think that METRO is actually that good in their judgement when they use lethal force, we all have our doubts.

    I, for one, think that the old system was used mainly to mitigate damage awards from the ensuing wrongful death civil suits, of which several have been successful.

    We need a system that will once again foster trust in our law enforcement agencies, including the DA's office.