The Clark County Coroners’ inquest process appears headed for further turmoil—and expense
Wed, Dec 14, 2011 (2:26 p.m.)
Photo: Steve Marcus
The seemingly never-ending saga that is the Clark County Coroners’ inquest is apparently headed for more legal limbo, leaving more than a dozen cases—and several grieving families seeking closure—in its wake, in addition to an ever-growing burden on taxpayers.
A federal judge ruled last week that the revised inquest process—which was approved late last year and subsequently had its legality challenged by the Police Protective Association in a lawsuit—does not violate officers’ constitutional rights. The association argues the new process, which includes adding an ombudsman to represent the victims’ families and releasing key evidence, does exactly that, and the PPA has already said it plans to appeal the federal decision.
However, the judge noted that the process might violate the Nevada separation of powers clause, and that a state judge would have to make that decision.
Coroner Michael Murphy says the backlog of inquests now stands at 17, and that his office has been cleared by the federal court to begin a pre-inquest hearing in a Nevada Highway Patrol case the first week of January. “We’re moving forward unless legally prohibited from doing so,” he said. Another officer-involved shooting this week of an unarmed man will increase that backlog even more.
According to Las Vegas Metro Police, there are 17 officers currently on administrative leave for officer-involved shootings, plus one with the Nevada Highway Patrol, which has also challenged the inquest process in court. How much it’s costing taxpayers to continue paying these officers isn’t clear, as Metro could not supply that information by press time.