DA, police union push bill to scrap coroner’s inquests; critics outraged

Coroner’s inquests into killings by police would be scrapped under a bill that the district attorney and local police union are trying to push through the Legislature.

Assembly Bill 320 would gut Clark County’s 40-year-old system that investigates deaths at the hands of police, a contentious process that recently was revamped to quell outrage about questionable inquest findings.

A key change, giving families appointed counsel at hearings, has irked many officers who say they will refuse to participate rather than be cross-examined. Also, the district attorney says the new system will be time consuming and costly.

After losing the battle to fend off reforms with the County Commission, the police union and district attorney are now fighting in Carson City to dissolve inquests before the first case is heard under the new rules.

If the bill passes, the district attorney would investigate the deadly incidents and determine whether to file criminal charges, which he has the power to do now.

Information from the investigations would be made public.

The bill has inflamed civil rights advocates who argue that it would scuttle a system essential for holding police accountable in taking a human life.

Proponents of the legislation contend that inquests have strayed too far from the original intent of finding facts and have become adversarial, making officers not want to take part.

Introduced by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, the bill is in an early stage, with an uncertain fate.

The first hearing on the bill was held by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Monday. It will resume Thursday to gather more testimony.

The bill must make it out of its first committee by Friday, or it will be declared dead for the session.

ACLU CRITICIZES BILL

Scrapping the inquests would turn the clock back decades and waste the work of advisory panels who spent many hours hammering out ways to bolster the public’s trust, said Maggie McLetchie, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

"I think it’s inappropriate for the Legislature to circumvent the will of the people of Clark County," McLetchie said. "We haven’t even had a chance to see how the new system works. All the important rights we fought for … would be gone."

County commissioners approved reforms in January, such as allowing families representation at inquests, disclosing investigative files before hearings and eliminating jury verdicts.

But the first case using the new guidelines won’t be heard for at least a month.

That probably will be the case of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez, who died last year after Nevada Highway Patrol officers stunned him with electronic devices.

A local police union leader insists he isn’t reacting just to the latest inquest overhaul, but to cumulative changes over the years.

"We’ve always believed the inquest process was not necessary," said Chris Collins, head of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. "We lived with it, tolerated it. There are remedies to get to what you want without inquests."

The district attorney can look into a police killing and determine whether the officer did anything wrong, Collins said.

If the family is dissatisfied with the outcome and wants to delve deeper, it can file a lawsuit, he said.

Collins said no other county in the state has inquests, and few places in the nation do. He argued that local police should not be treated differently here than anywhere else.

But Richard Boulware, a local NAACP vice president, said Collins was mistaken.

Most local governments in the country have independent boards, prosecutors or task forces that investigate police killings. They are just not called inquests, he said.

"The officers don’t understand that the community wants them to be held accountable for taking the life of an individual," Boulware said, adding that "very, very disturbing incidents" spurred reforms.

CASES THAT SPARKED REFORM

Commissioners formed an advisory panel last year to suggest changes in the system after inquest juries found officers justified in two contentious cases: those of Trevon Cole and Erik Scott.

Cole, 21, a small-time marijuana dealer, was shot and killed by Las Vegas police while unarmed in his apartment.

Scott, 38, a medical device salesman and West Point graduate, was killed outside a Costco in Summerlin by officers who said he drew a gun.

Collins, McLetchie and Boulware were among those on the panel.

About five years ago, police fatally shot 17-year-old murder suspect Swuave Lopez in the back while he was handcuffed and fleeing. An inquest jury found the shooting justified, spurring an outcry that led to the first inquest review panel being formed in 2006.

District Attorney David Roger said he disagreed with how the inquest system has been reshaped. The new procedures will make inquests more time-consuming and more expensive, Roger said.

Supplying the requisite two attorneys for each hearing will cost more than $100,000 yearly, he estimated. "I just don’t have the resources."

Commissioner Steve Sisolak initiated the most reforms and later opposed giving suspects’ families representation at inquests. Sisolak said he understood why police officers would be disenchanted.

"I see their side to it," Sisolak said. "I wish there could’ve been a common ground reached."

But Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said police should welcome more scrutiny to avoid the perception of secretive dealings behind closed doors.

"In this age of transparency, wouldn’t they want to have more transparency?"

And if Roger wants to save money, he should quit pursuing so many death penalty cases, which has cost the county more than $20 million, she said.

Rory Reid, a former commissioner who voted for reforms, said it was unfortunate that the union "wants to do an end run around the process" just because it dislikes the changes that much of the public called for.

He doesn’t think such a complex problem should be tossed to a busy Legislature to solve.

"We spent hours and hours on this," Reid said. "I don’t see how the Legislature will have the time to devote to this, given all that’s in front of them."

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit weather.gov/heat for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Politics
Nevada Politics Today: Asm. Pickard talks about taking on LVCVA, taxes and Read by 3
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter shouldn’t get a “golden parachute.” Tax increases aren’t necessary, but if politicians want an increase they should send it to voters. Read by Three needs a chance to work, even if it holds back thousands of third graders. That’s according to Senate district 20 candidate and Assemblyman Keith Pickard.
The Right Take: Long-time, high-ranking employee sues CCSD
Start with who filed it. Goldman has worked for the district for 38 years, including 20 years as its chief negotiator. Next, move on to who he’s suing. That list includes the district, former-superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and two board members.
Nevada Politics Today: Nevada School Choice Coalition
Minority parents in Nevada strongly support school choice, and elected officials are taking notice. School choice is also a way to help modernize education. That’s according to Valeria Gurr, director of Nevada School Choice Coalition.
Nevada Politics Today: Jammal Lemy
The call by March for Our Lives to ban semi-automatic assault weapons is a conversation starter, not a defined policy proposal. The country needs to talk about finding ways to end gun violence, but the NRA has blood on its hands for opposing gun-control legislation. That’s according to March for Our Lives creative director Jammal Lemy.
The Right Take: Why is CCSD out of money?
Nevada’s education establishment hopes you’re bad at history. Otherwise, you’ll identify what’s missing in its push for more funding.
Nevada Politics Today: Thomas Jipping
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks talks with Senior legal fellow at Heritage Foundation, Thomas Jipping.
The Right Take: Clark County residents love illegal fireworks
If you were here last Wednesday, you saw, heard or felt some of the tens of thousands of illegal fireworks set off in the Vegas Valley.
Heller speaks during an interview with the RJ
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., speaks during an interview with the Las Vegas-Review-Journal
Nevada Politics Today: Hardeep “Dee” Sull
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks sits down with Hardeep Sull to discuss immigration and the border wall.
The Right Take: Teachers can leave union from July 1-15
Nevada is a right-to-work state so teachers don’t have to join the Clark County Education Association. If they do join, however, they can only leave by submitting written notice to the union between July 1 and 15. Support staffers and education employees throughout Nevada have the same opt-out window.
Donald Trump Speaks At The Nevada Republican Party State Convention
President Donald Trump speaks at the Nevada Republican Party State Convention at the Suncoast Station.
The Right Take: Democrats Care More About Politics Than Immigrant Families
Democrats are already positioning themselves to vote down a law that would stop the separation of illegal immigrant parents and children. Remember this the next time you see liberals compare President Donald Trump and his administration to Nazis on this issue.
Nevada Politics Today: Dan Hart
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks sits down with political consultant, Dan Hart.
Nevada Primaries: Congressional Races
Review-Journal Political reporter Ramona Giwargis goes over the election night primary results for the congressional races.
The Right Take: Rosen lied about getting a degree in computers
Two weeks ago Sen. Dean Heller’s campaign released video evidence that Rep. Jacky Rosen lied about her resume. The media couldn’t care less.
Nevada Politics Today: Zac Moyle
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks sits down with political consultant, Zac Moyle to discuss the 2018 primary election results.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
Nevada Primaries: Governor Races
Review-Journal Political reporter Colton Lochhead goes over the election night primary results for the Governor races.
Election Night: Polls Close At 7 p.m.
Review-Journal political reporter Ramona Giwargis goes over what to expect from the Nevada primaries.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
The Right Take: Transgender regulations are radical and one-sided
Despite months of parental and student opposition, the regulations are radical and one-sided. Under the proposal, which Trustees will vote on Thursday, students get to pick their own gender identity and which locker rooms to change in.
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The Right Take: Tax Cuts Boosted Rosen's Staffs Pay
In February, the campaign team of Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen saw a pay bump thanks to the Republican tax plan.
Nevada Politics Today: Dan Rodimer
Nevada Politics Today host Victor Joecks sits down with Republican candidate for Senate District 8, Dan Rodimer.
Nevada Politics Today: Dan Rodimer
Nevada Politics Today host Victor Joecks sits down with Republican candidate for Senate District 8, Dan Rodimer.
The Right Take: To fix CCSD start in Carson City
State government has created the collective bargaining laws that have put the district on the brink of financial insolvency. Here are three ways to fix that.
The Right Take: Kids claim to be concerned about budget cuts
Ryan was one of six students Wednesday supposedly upset about budget cuts. Be real. Adults — be they parents, teachers or union officials — turned these kids into human shields and media props.
Nevada Politics Today: Bryce Henderson
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks sits down with Democrat candidate for Senate District 10, Bryce Henderson.
The Right Take: Trump calls MS-13 members 'animals'
Last week, President Donald Trump hosted a summit with California law enforcement officers to discuss the dangers the state’s “sanctuary” policies. During Q&A, Fresno County sheriff Margaret Mims worried about the sanctuary law preventing her from telling federal officials that she had a MS-13 gang member in custody.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like