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Erik Scott’s family asks to view evidence before inquest

Erik Scott Memorial

Sam Morris

Notes are printed on a photo during a celebration of life service for Erik Scott on July 17.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 | 1:36 p.m.

Related Document (.pdf)

Summerlin Costco Shooting

Metro crime scene investigators, officers and detectives mill about the entrance of the Costco store in Summerlin after the shooting July 10, 2010. Launch slideshow »

The attorney representing the family of Erik Scott, who was shot and killed by Metro officers in July, has filed a motion requesting that Scott's family be able to view evidence before the inquest Sept. 22.

In the motion filed with the Clark County coroner, district attorney and judge on Wednesday, attorney Ross Goodman said the Scott family should be allowed to attend a pre-inquest hearing and preview all evidence so they can submit meaningful questions, which would be addressed during the inquest.

"The inclusion of the family during the pre-inquest process substantially enhances public perception that the family is provided an opportunity to equally digest the evidence in advance of the inquest in order to meaningfully prepare written questions," the motion states.

In doing so, Goodman said the family also should be allowed to inspect a hard drive and back-up drive that allegedly contains video surveillance from inside the Summerlin Costco on July 10, the day of the shooting.

The motion also asks that the inquest jurors receive "accurate and complete jury instructions," a point of controversy in the previous inquest in a June 11 officer-involved shooting that killed 21-year-old Trevon Bertwane Cole at his home.

After the Cole inquest ended Aug. 22, which determined a Metro officer was justified in shooting Cole, opponents argued the inquest process doesn't clearly instruct jury members about the meaning of the three possible rulings — justifiable, excusable or criminal.

In the motion, Goodman said that during the Cole inquest "The jury was instructed that 'homicide that is not justifiable or excusable, as defined in these instructions, is a killing by criminal means' without defining 'criminal means.'"

Before the inquest, the jury should be given a definition of "criminal means," according to the motion.

Goodman said Metro's unwillingness to release any evidence to the family so far and the outcome of the Cole inquest prompted him to file the motion, which is the first of its kind.

"I thought it was critical to try and get the judge to order something, which no one should have a problem with — which is letting the family see evidence," he said Thursday.

The coroner's office, district attorney and presiding Judge Tony Abbatangelo all have acknowledged receiving the motion, Goodman said, but it's unclear how they will proceed.

Even so, Goodman said he is optimistic the judge will grant his request.

"I didn't waste my time doing this motion," he said. "It's permissible."

Goodman, who called the inquest system a "one-sided process," said the root of the problem is that the district attorney can control the case by choosing which witnesses will attend and what portions of their witness statements and recordings to introduce to the jury.

Given that the district attorney is intended to be a "neutral presenter of the facts," Goodman said: "If that's the job, why should they have a problem disclosing evidence to the family?"

"The mutual disclosure will also serve as a check and balance mechanism to ensure that the prosecutor is acting as a 'neutral presenter of the facts,'" Goodman said in the motion.

That way, the family can think of meaningful questions after digesting the evidence rather than being forced to submit questions on the spot during the inquest, Goodman said.

The inquest, which will determine whether the officers were justified in shooting Scott, will begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 22 and could continue through Sept. 24 at the Regional Justice Center, according to the coroner's office. County commissioners decided this week the inquest will be shown on the county's TV channel, Cox Channel 4.

Scott was killed July 10 after authorities say he pointed a gun at an officer, prompting three officers to shoot him. Some witness accounts have contradicted Metro's version of events.

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