Re­leas­ing video could help re­solve con­tro­versy sur­round­ing in­mate’s death.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

Den­ver Mayor Michael Hancock told The Den­ver Post’s edi­to­rial board last week that he has promised to pro­vide the fam­ily of Michael Mar­shall, a men­tally ill home­less man who died af­ter be­ing re­strained by deputies in Den­ver’s jail, ac­cess to the sur­veil­lance video as soon as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted.

The city has of­fered this as­sur­ance be­fore, but then Hancock added some­thing new.

“I don’t ex­pect it is go­ing to take much longer,” he said, re­fer­ring to the video’s re­lease.

We as­sume that means days or per­haps a few weeks at most. If so, it could help re­solve con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Mar­shall’s death.

And if the video can be shown to the fam­ily, what rea­son would there be to with­hold it from the pub­lic at large?

Fam­ily mem­bers and their sup­port­ers, such as pro­test­ers who booed the mayor Mon­day at Civic Cen­ter, have ob­jected to what they claim is the fail­ure by au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide them an­swers in the death, which oc­curred in Novem­ber.

The po­lice depart­ment ex­pe­dited its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Hancock said, the coro­ner was quick to com­plete the au­topsy and now the case is with the district at­tor­ney, who will con­sider if charges are war­ranted.

By re­leas­ing the video too soon, Hancock ex­plained, the in­ves­tiga tion into whether the deputies were crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble could be com­pro­mised.

“What we want to do is make sure ev­ery­one who needs to be in­ter­viewed has been in­ter­viewed be­fore we show the video,” the mayor said.

This is stan­dard prac­tice, and a rea­son­able pol­icy. The prob­lem oc­curs when au­thor­i­ties fail to re­lease video long af­ter con­clu­sion of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a highly charged case. The sur­veil­lance video of a fa­tal con­fronta­tion be­tween deputies and home­less street preacher Marvin Booker in July 2010 was not re­leased for months af­ter the DA de­clined to file charges. Booker died af­ter be­ing sub­dued by deputies and his fam­ily even­tu­ally won a $ 4.65 mil­lion civil suit against the city.

Else­where, video has been held by au­thor­i­ties much longer. Re­cently, a judge in Chicago or­dered the re­lease of a nearly three- yearold video of a po­lice shoot­ing.

And last year Chicago of­fi­cials fought the re­lease of a dash- cam video of a po­lice shoot­ing of teenaged Laquan McDon­ald that re­sulted in the ar­rest of the of­fi­cer for mur­der.

Den­ver of­fi­cials must pre­serve the in­tegrity of the case. But the mayor’s com­ments sug­gest they also rec­og­nize the de­sir­abil­ity of timely re­lease of video in a case like the one in­volv­ing Mar­shall.

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