Inquest jurors to see Derek Williams squad car video
Jan 27, 2013 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The inquest into the death of Derek Williams in Milwaukee police custody probably will last longer than originally anticipated, special prosecutor John Franke said.
Testimony of three to five medical experts is expected to take an entire day, Franke told Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Kevin Martens during a hearing Friday. Police officers and people who witnessed Williams' arrest and detention also will be called to testify during the inquest, which is set to begin Feb. 11.
The squad car video of Williams struggling to breathe and begging for help as officers ignored him for nearly eight minutes will be shown for jurors and the public, Franke said. He plans to set up large screens in the courtroom so spectators can see the video and other exhibits clearly.
The video was posted on JSOnline in September after 10 months of public records requests and negotiations with the city. Officials at the Police Department, district attorney's office and city Fire and Police Commission all viewed the video months earlier and concluded the officers involved did nothing wrong. All three reopened their inquiries as a result of a Journal Sentinel investigation.
Franke, a former Milwaukee County judge and assistant U.S. attorney, is serving as special prosecutor for the inquest at the request of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who earlier declined to issue charges.
Inquests are run differently from trials.
Franke will present evidence before six jurors who will render an advisory verdict about whether criminal charges are warranted. During Friday's hearing, Franke said he also wants three alternate jurors.
Martens said he will likely ask prospective jurors about whether they have had particularly positive or negative experiences with police. People who say yes would be precluded from serving only if they can't set aside their feelings and agree to be fair. The same holds true for people who have heard or read about the case in the media, the judge said.
It will be up to Franke to determine -- using the jury's input and his own knowledge -- if there is a basis for filing charges.
"From the outset, I have been considering all potential charges," he said during Friday's hearing.
The three charges most likely to apply to Williams' death are first-and second-degree reckless homicide, both felonies, and failure to render aid by law enforcement, a misdemeanor, Franke and Martens agreed. However, jurors may be asked to consider different charges at the end of the inquest, depending on the evidence.
The crime of failure to render aid was put on the books in 1983 after a public outcry following the death of Ernest Lacy, who died in Milwaukee police custody after officers failed to get him urgent medical attention.
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