SPD officers’ and Seattle’s request to block video livestream at Charleena Lyles inquest

As reported by Axios Seattle this morning, the two police officers involved in the shooting of Charleena Lyles in her apartment have requested that the Administrator of the inquest prohibit live-streaming video of the inquest as well as the media taking an publishing photographs of their faces during the inquest proceedings and surrounding the inquest venue.

There is some nuance to this request. The inquest is still a public proceeding, open to the public and to media within the capacity limits of the facility where the proceeding is taking place. Also, they are not requesting that a live audio stream not be provided — which would be more than was available under prior inquest rules.

The offices claim that they and their families have been targeted with threats of violence, harassment, and vandalism because of their participation in the shooting of Lyles, both in person and online. They further argue that digital tools and social media allow for fake, doctored photographs and video to be distributed online, which they wish to avoid.

The officers argue that under new inquest rules approved by the King County Executive, the inquest Administrator has the power to make these kinds of prohibitions on video and facial photography to protect the officers — as well as any other witnesses in the inquest who do not wish to have their images live-streamed and potentially subject themselves to the same kinds of abuse.

The City of Seattle filed a brief supporting the two officers’ requests, asking that the proceedings be only audio-streamed and not video-recorded — though a closed video link could be provided to family members of Lyles who cannot be present in person. They cite the recent Johnny Depp/Amber Heard libel case among their evidence for the severity of the problem.

However, an attorney for the family of Lyles filed an opposing brief, arguing “Blurring the Officers’ faces would be wholly inconsistent with the intent of the entire inquest process, 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. Not allowing the Families and the public to actually view the Officers’ faces would deny everyone that right.”

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