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Officers feel vindicated after court rules against inquests

Reported by: Amber Dixon
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Updated: 10/26/2012 7:16 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shooting deaths of Erik Scott and Trevon Cole in 2010 prompted the Clark County Commission to change how law enforcement officers are investigated when involved in someone's death.

Five Nevada Highway Patrol officers did not want to deal with those new coroner's inquest rules when they were being investigated in the stun-gun death of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez.

The officers legally challenged it, eventually appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Thursday, the Nevada Supreme Court called Clark County’s revamped rules for coroner’s inquests unconstitutional.

According to the ruling, the Nevada Highway Patrol officers’ primary argument was that the inquest would violate their due process rights, allowing a lawyer for the victim's family to be involved.

The officers reportedly argued the lawyer could possibly get information the family could use in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Highway Patrol officers lost on that argument.

Their lawyer told News 3, despite what the court ruling said, the due process issue was not their biggest concern.

“There was no biggest issue,” said Josh Reisman, attorney for the Nevada Highway Patrol officers. “There were all of those issues that I raised, the jurisdictional issue, the separation of powers issue, the due process issue, the equal protection issue. There's no such thing as biggest issue. Every constitutional issue is big.”

The Highway Patrol officers did win on the jurisdictional issue.

The Nevada Supreme Court said the Clark County Commission cannot designate justices of the peace as presiding officers over inquests; only the Legislature has that power.

“We're very happy,” said Reisman. “We feel vindicated.”

The Clark County Commission now faces a rewrite of their two-year-old ordinance.

“We'll see what they come back with, and hopefully they come back with something that's more sensitive to the officers' interests,” said Reisman.

If not, Reisman said, the legal battle could begin again.

Nineteen officer-involved shooting cases still have to go through the inquest process.

They are on hold until the Clark County Commission decides if and how they will enact a new ordinance.
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