Attorneys representing Utah’s media entities will be allowed to intervene in a civil rights lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who was shot and killed three years ago by a U.S. Marshal at Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse.
The Thursday ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cleary allows the media to seek access to a courtroom video depicting the April 21, 2014, shooting, which has been filed with the court under seal.
According to court documents, the video shows the marshal fire four shots at 25-year-old Siale Angilau after he grabbed a pen and rushed at a testifying witness in an apparent attempt to stab him. The shooting occurred during Angilau’s first day of trial on gang-related racketeering charges.
Angilau’s parents in 2016 filed a wrongful death suit against the federal government and the marshal, identified in court documents as “Jane Doe.” The Angilua family has have received a copy of the video, but their attorney has complained it is of poor quality.
Angilau’s parents have not objected to efforts by a coalition of news outlets, including The Salt Lake Tribune, to intervene in the lawsuit to force public release of the video. But the government has claimed public release of the video would cause a “significant security concern.”
Earlier this month, government attorneys argued that the video should not be released because it might yet be found inadmissible at trial.
But Cleary wrote that the courtroom video “is the critical evidence” in the case.
“It strains credulity to believe that the video will be found inadmissible or immaterial. ... In fact, the video is likely the most probative evidence available.”
Media attorney David Reymann argued last year in court papers that because of “substantial public interest” in the case, the video should not be filed under seal and the lawsuit should not be litigated in secret.
“Not only does it involve the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers, which alone situates it amidst a critical national dialogue regarding excessive force,” Reymann wrote, “but also those events took place in a public courtroom during a public trial — extraordinary circumstances that underscore the need for public accountability of those involved.”
The government argued in June, that the government and the marshal have immunity from lawsuits when properly conducting their duties, and that Angilau’s lawsuit should be dismissed.
“We don’t want a situation where we have deputies that will hesitate to protect, witnesses, jurists, other people in the courtroom when there’s a physical threat of danger and harm,” government attorney Leah Brownlee Taylor told a judge.
Angilau’s trial was the first at the new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City. Identified by federal prosecutors as a member of the Tongan Crip Gang, he was indicted on racketeering charges in May 2010.
Correction: The judge named in a previous version of the story was wrong.