ER MOORE INQUEST MAY BE TELEVISED
by Christine Bensen-Messinger, 8/30/2006
A date, time and place for the coroner’s inquest into the April 14 police-involved shooting death of Cheri Moore has been set, and despite earlier statements, it is also possible that it will be recorded and televised at a later date.
Because of the large amount of interest shown by community residents about the shooting and inquest process, Humboldt County Coroner Frank Jager said for the past couple of weeks he has been working with KEET Channel 13 to try and arrange for the inquest to be taped and televised.
“I’m working on it; nothing is pinned down yet, but I am working on something,” he said. “We’re also working on trying to get it broadcast to another area of the Courthouse (in case not everyone) can fit in the courtroom.”
In late July, Jager told The Eureka Reporter that in the manner of how other trials are conducted, neither cameras nor tape recorders will be allowed in the courtroom.
“I’m trying to keep it as nonpolitical as possible and nonthreatening as possible,” Jager said.
Cameras, he said, can be “perceived” as threatening.
Since then, Jager said he changed his mind.
“There’s been a lot of public interest in this thing,” he said, adding that one of the purposes of the inquest is to make it open to the public.
Jager said he will also allow media representatives to tape record the proceedings, but has not changed his mind about still photographs.
When asked whether he thinks the inquest should be televised, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said that is not his decision.
“I’m not going to run Frank’s show,” he said. “I think the community has an interest in knowing what happened. I know Frank understands that and wants to provide that to the community.”
The incident, which started as a welfare check shortly before 10 a.m. on April 14, per a request of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Branch, ended with the shooting death of Moore, who had a history of mental illness.
The inquest, which is scheduled to take three to four days to complete, will include testimony from at least 45 witnesses, including forensic specialists, friends of Moore’s, all the involved officers and members of the Critical Incident Response Team. Upon the completion of testimony a panel of 12 jurors will deliberate.
“They’ll determine the manner and cause of death based on the testimony and they’ll also determine whether the shooting was justified,” Jager said. “It’s not so much a verdict, but findings.”
Once the findings come in, a report will be submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office. The DA has the authority to decide if charges will be filed, and against whom.
“Nothing that’s presented in the inquest can be used in a criminal or civil trial,” Jager said.
Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas could not be reached for comment by deadline.
The inquest is scheduled to take place Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in courtroom four in the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.
(Christine Bensen-Messinger is the crime and courts reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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