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Utah Supreme Court sides with DA on one point in Danielle Willard case

First Published      Last Updated Oct 28 2014 07:36 pm

In a case that appears connected to the Danielle Willard shooting, the Utah Supreme Court on Thursday said the Salt Lake County District Attorney should be given the transcript of its request to convene a grand jury.

But the Supreme Court delayed any decision on the underlying matter — whether the district attorney can appeal the judges' decision not to impanel a grand jury.

Instead, the Supreme Court asked district attorney Sim Gill and the judicial branch's own lawyers for more briefs on that matter, and whether the case can even be argued in public.

City Weekly reported in January that Gill's office sought a grand jury to consider whether criminal charges can be filed against West Valley City police officers Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. But a panel of five state court judges that hears requests to convene such grand juries refused the request, according to court records.

Salmon and Cowley shot and killed Willard on Nov. 2, 2012, as they were investigating what they thought was a drug deal. Gill has already said the shooting was not justified under Utah law, though representatives of Salmon and Cowley argue they were defending themselves. Willard was backing a car out of parking spot and struck Cowley.

Grand jury proceedings are typically regarded as secret unless an indictment is issued. Gill's office complained it couldn't even receive a transcript of what happened before the panel of judges.

Thursday's ruling agreed that the district attorney needs a transcript in order to make an informed argument for overturning the panel's denial for a grand jury.

Neither Thursday's written ruling nor oral arguments held before the Utah Supreme Court on April 1 mentioned Willard's name, though the oral arguments mentioned the name of the prosecutor assigned to the Willard case, and Gill has previously acknowledged legal issues were delaying a decision about filing charges against Salmon and Cowley.

The Supreme Court ordered all sides to submit briefs by May 19.


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