The ACLU of Nevada was dismayed to learn that its request, along with that of the family of Erik Scott, to participate in preparation for the Coroner's Inquest into Scotts' death, was denied. At this pre-inquest hearing, the Coroner, the District Attorney, and the presiding officer of the Inquest meet to go over witnesses and evidence. Erik Scott's death is the focus of this process, yet his family has been denied the basic right to see the building blocks of this hearing.
"Denying participation from anyone but the DA, who works closely with the police and serves as the Inquest's only lawyer, underscores the severe flaws in the Inquest process," said Maggie McLetchie of the ACLU fo Nevada, who has been working to improve the inquest system. "The fact that only the DA has access to the critical evidence and witnesses in this case prevents any involvement from the victim's family, and wrongly prevents transparency in a public process."
The ACLU of Nevada believes that the system must be fair, transparent and accountable to the public, and the victim’s family must be able to participate directly. Allowing all parties to look at the evidence and witness list ensures that there is meaningful oversight, for both the victim's family and the public.
The coroner’s inquest process is rife with problems from top to bottom. In an opaque, one-sided system where every element is controlled by the District Attorney – who shouldn’t even be part of the process at all – truth can never come to light. Officers who do engage in wrongdoing can never be held accountable, and when officers should be vindicated, the tainted process leaves the inquest's vindication meaningless in the eyes of the public.
The ACLU of Nevada will continue its efforts to improve and overhaul the Coroner's Inquest system to provide meaningful public oversight of law enforcement.