Denver Sued for Refusing to Disclose Video Evidence of Jail Death

An independent news organization sued Denver today to force the release of video and audio recordings showing deputies’ use of force on Michael Marshall that caused his death

DENVER – The Colorado Independent, a non-profit news organization, filed a lawsuit today against the City and County of Denver, seeking the release of video and audio recordings showing sheriff deputies’ use of force on Michael Lee Marshall on November 11, 2015, which resulted in his death.

Mr. Marshall, a mentally ill, non-violent person, was detained at the Denver downtown detention center in November 2015. He was involved in an incident with sheriff’s deputies on November 11, 2015 during which several deputies beat him, restrained him in a prone position and placed a spit mask on his face. Mr. Marshall vomited into his spit mask and choked on his own vomit. He lost oxygen, went into cardiac arrest, and subsequently died several days later. The Medical Examiner has labeled his death a homicide.

There is a video recording of the incident. Under the Colorado Open Records and Criminal Justice Records Act, The Colorado Independent sought release of any video and audio recording of the incident. Denver, through its records custodian, Mary Dulacki, has denied the request, claiming that withholding the video is in the public interest and referring to ongoing investigation of the incident.

As the lawsuit explains, “The public has a legitimate and compelling interest in known how law enforcement officers behave while doing their jobs. Without such information, the public would be unable to supervise the individuals and institutions it has entrusted with extraordinary authority to arrest and detain persons against their will. With so much at stake, the city simply cannot be permitted to operate in secrecy.”

Mayor Hancock has publicly stated that the video should not be released to the family before the individuals involved are interviewed. According to the lawsuit, however, it has been reported that the deputies involved in the incident have already been shown the video. In addition, there has been no commitment to release the video to the public, “which has a compelling interest in seeing the objective video evidence of how Denver sheriff’s deputies performed their jobs with respect to Mr. Marshall. The public should not have to wait another day to see what happened.”

The Colorado Independent is represented by attorneys Elizabeth Wang and Matthew Topic of Loevy & Loevy, one of the largest civil rights law firms in the country with offices in Chicago and Boulder. Recently, Loevy & Loevy successfully obtained the release of the dashcam video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting death at the hands of Chicago police.

Copies of the suit, The Colorado Independent v. Mary Dulacki, No. 2016 CV 030197 are available here.
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