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Commissioners differ on way to alter coroner's inquest

Reported by: Amber Dixon
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Updated: 12/04/2012 6:41 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) --The county commission took up the debate over the coroner's inquest process today.

After listening to public comment, Commissioners put forward their own ideas for adjusting the process of looking into police shootings.

News 3's Amber Dixon, Mackenzie Warren and Sergio Avila have more information on the debate that took place at the Clark County government center.

Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown have called for change to the process that investigates deadly force by police.

The coroner’s inquest system has a backlog of 20 cases. It was put in place two years ago but has since been stalled in the court system.

In October, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled one small part of Clark County's coroner's inquest unconstitutional.

While approving the majority of the process, the high court said the county could not put justices of the peace as supervisors of the process that probes police use of deadly force. It said only the legislature could.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said that can be fixed and coroner's inquests can go on.

“That was a very simple change,” said Giunchigliani.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak disagreed.

“It’s not a matter of making one change, because the officers have made it crystal clear, if we make that one change, they're not going to participate,” said Sisolak.

Sisolak said his goal in changing the inquest is getting police officers involved.

The reason police refuse is that a lawyer represents family of those killed, and that lawyer can ask police officers questions.

Police union leaders argued it exposes officers to lawsuits from family of the deceased.

Sisolak said his changes would replace that family representative with more of a public representative.

“Whoever that person can be that can illicit the responses that are necessary to get the information is what I want to get to,” said Sisolak. “That person I think has multi-folds. That person will represent the general public, and also the family. That person will not in my mind act as an attorney for the family.”

“Then you won't have an inquest,” responded Giunchigliani. “You really won't, and that was the whole point.”

Giunchigliani said suggested changes are premature.

“People are trying to presuppose on a process that's never had a chance to go forward,” said Giunchigliani.

She said she wants the current but never-used inquest process to have a chance.

It’s a chance Sisolak said will not get results.

“What we have now is not working for anybody,” said Sisolak.

Commissioners Sisolak and Larry Brown are working on changes together.

They’re expected to introduce a separate ordinance from Giunchigliani in the next few meetings.


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