Coroner’s Inquest — Delayed Indefinitely

 

Conflicting Eyewitness Reports Dismissed…

Mystery Doctor Offering Fantasy Diagnosis…

One Metro Cops Kills Twice in One Year..

All Results of a stalled Inquest System

 

The Nevada Supreme Court has once again delayed the implementation of the new guidelines for Clark County coroner’s inquest, which examines all fatal officer involved incidents. Oral Arguments on the constitutionality of the inquests’ new rules are scheduled for next month. This follows the court’s order to stay the inquest into the death of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez the day before it was scheduled to begin. The  Nevada Highway Patrol troopers who were involved in the August 2010 death are the ones who filed the latest legal action against resuming the procedure.

Lopez-Hernandez died after being repeatedly tased after a road rage incident in August, 2010. Earlier this year District Attorney Steve Wolfson released his office’s opinion that the officer’s actions were not criminal and they would not be charged.

Metro officer holds up a Taser during a previous inquest hearing

While the medical examiner, Lisa Gavin ruled  the death a homicide resulting from  “cardiopulmonary arrest during varied restraining procedures,” the DA’s report references a mysterious “Dr. Vilke,” who refutes the examiner’s finding, saying Lopez-Hernandez died of “excited delirium.”

Excited Delirium Syndrome (ExDS) began showing up in coroners’ reports about the same time Taser’s began to be widely used by law enforcement. It has been cited as the cause of death of nearly all police custody deaths that would otherwise be blamed on excessive force. However the term ExDS can’t be found in medical textbooks, dictionaries or on lists of standard diagnoses. It is said to be a mental condition yet it is not found in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize ExDS as a legitimate condition. In fact only National Association of Medical Examiners  and the American College of Emergency Physicians support the existence of  ExDS. Even the Emergency Medicine experts, retained by TASER, Intl., admit that ExDS deaths rarely occur in the absence of police restraint.

In the DA’s report Dr  Vilke, who never physically examined  Lopez-Hernandez’s body, concluded that his death was not a result if being tased 19 times, but rather ExDS. He stated there has never been any “published medical or scientific literature that demonstrates that a TASER X26 ECD…can cause cardiac arrest or sudden death in humans.” He also claims Lopez-Hernandez was displaying the symptoms of ExDS during his encounter. However, the only consistent symptoms found in every  ExDS death is contact with aggressive police, and just this week the American Heart Association released a study that concluded, the TASER X26 ECD’s “stimulation can cause cardiac electrical capture and provoke cardiac arrest due to ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation.”

While the DA’s report does not give any specific information about “Dr.Vilke” or why he was consulted here, our research found that a  Dr. Gary Vilke of San Diego is one of the most vocal proponent of  ExDS and is cited in nearly every study funded by Taser, Inc where ExDS was cited as the cause of all Taser related fatalities.

Rafael Olivas one of two people killed in less than a year by Metro officer Chris Grivas who has yet to face on inquest panel.

The Clark County Commission changed the way inquests were conducted after officers were cleared in two very public inquest, including the killing of Trevon Cole by LVMPD narcotics detective Bryan Yant. Jurors said they ignored all the physical evidence contradicting Yant’s account of the night he killed Cole, and chose to believe the officer simply because of his position. The jury had not been told that, a week prior. Yant had been found by a judge to have committed perjury in a case very similar to Cole’s. Critics complained the fact the DA’s office refused to submit evidence questioning Yant’s honesty was proof the previous version was biased in favor of police. County commissioners changed the inquest several months later.

The new system added a lawyer to represent the family of the dead. In addition to being able question the Troopers involved in this incident, the court appointed Ombudsman would have been able to question Dr. Vilke on his apparent bias and how the  American Heart Association’s study factors in to his unwavering belief that all in-custody deaths have been the result of ExDS. However, none of that will happen until the Nevada Supreme Court rules on the issue later this summer.

In the meantime the county is facing a backlog of 19 scheduled inquests, including the  July 14, 2011, killing 23-year-old Rafael Olivas, who was shot while  carrying a knife by Metro officers Christopher Grivas and David Hager. While neither of these two officers have had their actions vetted through the inquest process, Grivas was not only taken off his paid suspension, but let back on the streets where he was free to kill again. Which he did on April 22, when he and four other officers shot and killed  Sharmel T. Edwards after she was stopped driving a car her boyfriend had reported stolen.

In both shootings witness have contradicted Grivas’ account that suspects were a threat to law enforcement or the public when they were killed.

So what do you guys think? Should go ahead and hold the inquests without the officers? Return to the old system? Or try something completely different?

 

Nevada Highway Patrol Officers Try to Derail Inquest

The District Attorney Says

No Criminal Charges Pending

Still NHP Troopers Seek To Avoid Inquest

In a plea filed today with the Nevada Supreme Court the five Nevada Highway Patrol officers involved in the August 2010 death of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez asked the court to halt the May 3-4 inquest into his death. If inquest is not stopped by the NSC, it would be the first inquest held since the process was changed in December, 2010.

The process was revamped after two highly publicized inquests found two controversial shootings justified, resulting in criticism that the old system always favored police. Not a single police death had been ruled criminal in more than 100 inquests conducted since the process was adopted in the 1970’s.

The inquest jury’s finding of the Metro Officer Bryan Yant’s killing of an unarmed  Trevon Cole during a late night drug raid prompted the community to demand the process be  overhauled. Yant, an officer with a documented history of lying under oath, provided a version of events inconsistent with both the physical evidence and the testimony of other officers. Yant’s history of intentionally deceiving the court system was never provided to the jury despite a judge declaring Yant had provided testimony tantamount to perjury less than a week prior to the Cole inquest.

The Clark County Commission changed it in December 2010 providing the family of the person killed by police the representation of an appointed  ombudsman who would be given access to key evidence and investigative files. The commission also renamed the jury to an inquest panel and removed their ability to determine if the shooting was criminal or justifiable. The panel’s responsibility was changed to purely determining the overall facts of the case, nothing more.

That didn’t stop The Las Vegas Police Protective Association (LVPPA), which represents the majority of police officers in Clark County, from complaining the new system  is no longer aimed at determining the facts, but instead is an adversarial system pitting officers against the families of those killed. On behalf of several Metro Officers the LVPPA filed suit claiming the new process violated the Constitutional rights of its officers.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro ruled in December of last year the coroner’s inquest system as revised is not a system that jeopardizes officers’ rights as it’s intended to determine the facts about a shooting, and not to assign guilt or innocence.

“The inquest is designed to be an investigatory body, not an adjudicatory or accusatory body. It does not adjudicate any legal rights. It does not recommend any particular action to any other entity, including the district attorney’s office. Whether to initiate criminal charges following an inquest remains solely within the discretion of the prosecuting authorities,”

-U.S. District Judge Philip Pro

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro

“The fact that officers may face reputational harms, may suffer adverse employment actions or may become the subject of a future civil or criminal proceeding are speculative collateral consequences that do not trigger due process guarantees.” Pro ruled

Pro also noted that police officers in essence investigate themselves in an officer involved death, and their favorable relationship with the district attorney’s office, one the average citizen does not enjoy, requires the police be subjected to different procedures than the public, “ensure both actual meaningful review of police conduct.”

The LVPPA appealed that decision with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but there has been no word yet on when a decision from the Ninth is expected.

Five NHP offficers, including Troopers Scott Simon, Heather Neely and Jorge Hernandez have petitioned the state Supreme Court to halt next week’s coroner’s inquest because “the new investigative process ‘performs an accusative function because it is designed to find specifically identified police officers responsible for crimes and to publicize their alleged wrongdoing.”

The Supreme Court hasn’t yet indicated when it will rule on the motion that next week’s inquest be halted until the issues about the new inquest process are fully litigated.