Ban of video livestream in inquest into death of Charleena Lyles denied by administrator
Inquest Administrator Michael Spearman has ruled that video will be included in the livestream covering the officer-involved shooting of Charleena Lyles. Official coverage of the event will be hosted through KOMO News.
Original published 6/15/22 10:28 a.m.:
In an inquest into the officer-involved shooting of Charleena Lyles, two officers have filed a motion requesting that no video or photos are taken of their faces over concerns of privacy and safety. The inquest into the wrongful death of Lyles, a black mother of four and victim of domestic violence, who was shot by two Seattle Police Department officers when investigating a burglary she had reported, is set to begin June 21.
Officers report that she lunged at them with a knife when responding to her call, which was a part of a declining mental health state that Charleena Lyles was in according to her family. They allege that officers did nothing to address Lyles’ mental health crisis, and did not deescalate the altercation before shooting her.
She was shot seven times.
The original investigation into the officer-involved shooting was dismissed by King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector in 2019, but was appealed and reopened in 2021 in the wake of the racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A settlement was reached with the city of Seattle for $3.5 million to address the wrongful death lawsuit the family filed, but the inquest is still set to continue primarily as fact-finding.
As a part of the inquest, Executive Dow Constantine ordered in a 2018 executive order to prioritize “transparency” including a live stream of the events to keep the public informed and hold SPD accountable. For this inquest. lawyers representing the two officers who shot Lyles have requested that the faces of the officers not be shown for fear of “doxing” and “legitimate safety threats and concerns for the officers (and by association their families)” according to a motion filed before the inquest.
“They simply seek to at least minimize the potential for threats and doxing by requesting that the proceedings not be video live-streamed, as allowing it would absolutely increase the breadth of the anticipated revival of the antagonistic and threatening conduct by certain members of the public, in particular a renewed frenzy on social media,” the motion states.
The family of Lyles has filed a motion as well asking the judge to allow the live stream and photographs of the officers as a part of the efforts to remain transparent and accountable to the public.
“Blurring the Officers’ faces would be wholly inconsistent with the intent of the entire inquest process,” Karen Koehler, a lawyer for Lyles’ family, said in a brief filed opposing the motion. “Which is to reassure the community in a transparent manner that the police shooting of a woman suffering a mental crisis, in her own home in the presence of her children, has gone through an objective process of review and without merely rubber-stamping by the police or City. A public trial discourages perjury, and a meaningful, transparent process includes the Families and the public having the opportunity to observe the Officers’ facial expressions and look them in the eyes when they testify about what happened the night Charleena Lyles died.”
The fifth anniversary of Lyles’ death is on Saturday June 18.
Set to be held in the Conference Center at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center at 9 a.m. and a link is provided to a live stream of the proceedings.
The inquest will continue during the weekdays through July 6, with the exceptions of June 23, 24 and July 4.