Harford County sheriff calls lawyer basic’s lawsuit over deputy taking pictures ‘unwarranted escalation’; listening to set for Thursday – Capital Gazette

In a courtroom submitting Wednesday, an lawyer representing Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler referred to as Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s swimsuit in opposition to him an “unwarranted escalation” of their debate over how deadly police shootings in Maryland needs to be investigated.

The pair’s monthslong disagreement over a 2021 regulation that requires Frosh’s workplace to research civilian deaths involving police got here into the highlight over the weekend, when two Harford County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 53-year-old John Raymond Fauver close to a Forest Hill procuring heart, following reviews that the person was carrying a gun and expressing suicidal ideas.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has since maintained that entry to proof within the case is being restricted by the sheriff. The sheriff has asserted his workplace has an obligation to research the incident in case any felony exercise led as much as the taking pictures, and due to this fact had the suitable to gather proof on the scene of Saturday’s taking pictures, and retain the digital variations of things like physique digital camera footage.

The two events will meet Thursday morning in Harford County Circuit Court for an emergency listening to, the outcomes of which might form the way forward for one piece of Maryland’s current police reform efforts, specialists say.

Frosh’s determination to litigate the dispute might carry some danger.

Were the decide to resolve that native regulation enforcement companies can select whether or not they want to gather and retain the unique proof in a police-involved fatality, the lawyer basic’s workplace might have to craft agreements with every jurisdiction in Maryland, stated David Gray, who teaches felony regulation on the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. The workplace seemingly will argue that’s excessively onerous, Gray stated.

But maybe the larger danger, Gray stated, is permitting challenges like Gahler’s to persist with out decision, creating confusion statewide.

“The real risk is having a persistent ambiguity and being on the scene of one of these incidents and not knowing who has primary authority,” he stated.

Gray stated the brand new regulation actually requires the lawyer basic’s workplace to research in issues like Fauver’s demise and requires native regulation enforcement to “cooperate,” however its language is unclear about whether or not the lawyer basic has unique authority and how much cooperation is required.

That might compromise chains of proof in such investigations, amongst different issues, Gray stated.

“If you have two agencies that are on the scene trying to do the same thing that can have deleterious effects,” he stated. “That just needs to be resolved.”

This yr, the Maryland General Assembly handed an up to date invoice stating the lawyer basic’s Independent Investigations Division is “the primary investigative unit” for such instances. The invoice additionally said that native regulation enforcement companies “shall provide any requested evidence” to the division.

It doesn’t take impact till July 1, however the decide might take into account it whereas assessing the intent of the legislature, Gray stated.

In his submitting Wednesday, Gahler’s lawyer David Wyand stated that Maryland State Police crime scene technicians didn’t arrive to the scene of the taking pictures till 6:45 p.m., roughly two hours after the sheriff’s forensics workforce. State officers already on the scene had been invited to watch and {photograph} proof assortment, and observe any interviews performed.

A submitting from Frosh indicated investigators from the lawyer basic’s workplace first arrived on the scene at about 5:30 p.m.

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“They were not denied access to any evidence they wanted to see,” Wyand wrote.

Gahler’s lawyer additionally expressed considerations with the Maryland State Police crime lab, which he stated “has historically been very slow in returning results” for firearm-related investigations. As a end result, in September 2019, the sheriff’s workplace switched to utilizing Frederick County’s crime lab, in line with a supporting affidavit from Harford County Cpl. Brad Ghaner.

“At times evidence analysis results from MSP took as much as eight months,” Ghaner wrote. “Using the Frederick County lab, [Harford County Sheriff’s Office] can typically produce analysis results in less than a week.”

If the courtroom pressured Harford at hand its proof from Saturday’s taking pictures over to the state police crime lab, the submitting learn, it will “introduce unnecessary chain of custody issues” and “cause significant delay in the investigations.”

With regard to the video proof, which all events have been in a position to view, Gahler’s lawyer argued that the county’s state’s lawyer has the authority over whether or not to share it with the lawyer basic’s workplace, which has a coverage of releasing physique digital camera footage publicly inside two weeks, at the least in most cases.

“The Harford County State’s Attorney has specifically instructed the Sheriff not to release the video without his consent while the investigation is ongoing, asserting that the public release of the video could compromise his investigation,” the submitting said. “Neither the Sheriff nor the Harford County State’s Attorney has received assurances that they will be consulted prior to such a public release.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this text.

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