Widow wants to see body-cam video before release

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 21:50:33-04

Releasing video of a man's fatal shooting death by a Mesa officer would be the same as releasing a police report, attorneys for the man's widow argued Wednesday.

"It doesn't make a difference as to jury partiality and due process issues," said attorney Bill Richards, who is representing Laney Sweet. "We're not talking about evidence. We're talking about a purely factual piece of information. That's it."

Richards along with an attorney for several media outlets argued before a Maricopa County Superior Court judge for the dissemination of police body camera footage from the Jan. 18 shooting death of Daniel Shaver. All of them filed motions objecting to a March 25 protective order prohibiting the video from being shown.

While Sweet would not oppose the video going public, she is asking to view it ahead of any media. She wants a five-day window to identify any portions that may be privacy issues, Richards said.

David Bodney, the attorney representing multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press, said granting that would be "an unusual step" under state public records law but he would likely not oppose it.

"If it would expedite a fair determination by the court, then we do not oppose it," Bodney said.

Shaver was killed outside his hotel room after someone reported seeing a man with a rifle. He and a woman were ordered to crawl toward officers in the hotel hallway. He tearfully pleaded for officers not to shoot him moments before Officer Philip Mitchell Brailsford opened fire, according to a police report.

Brailsford has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. He has since been fired for several policy violations.

Both his defense attorney and prosecutors oppose the release of the police video before any trial proceedings. Defense attorney Craig Mehrens said it would be impossible to recruit an impartial jury.

"Once you view this video, you're going to have an opinion one way or another," Mehrens said.

An attorney representing Shaver's parents said they also don't want the video shown for privacy reasons.

Bodney reiterated that Arizona law dictates that the public has the right to readily examine public records such as police video, not when defense attorneys feel like sharing it.

"There is a vast difference between the public's statutory right to inspect a law enforcement record promptly and the defendant's right to curtail that access so dissemination only occurs in an orchestrated fashion at time of trial," Bodney said.

Judge Sam Myers said he would take all the arguments under advisement and issue a written ruling soon.