A judge on Wednesday said journalists should be able to see video of the 2014 fatal shooting at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary gave the government a Dec. 13 deadline to appeal his ruling. If the U.S. Department of Justice opts not to do so, a redacted version of the courtroom video, but one that will still show a U.S. Marshal shooting and killing defendant Siale Angilau, could be made public the next day.
David Reymann, an attorney for a coalition of Utah news outlets who have sought the video, noted that DOJ lawyers have worked to keep the video out of public view and he expects them to appeal Cleary’s ruling.
“He gave us everything we asked for,” Reymann said of the judge.
Cleary rejected arguments from the government that the video would demonstrate security procedures and harm safety in the courtroom. He found that the journalists had a First Amendment right of access to the video.
“Even if there were some marginal impact on security procedures, the Court finds this impact not sufficiently compelling to overcome the presumption of public access,” Cleary wrote.
The version of the video Cleary ordered released is the one requested by the news outlets. It obscures the face of the marshal, jurors and some other people who were in the courtroom.
Angilau, 25, was shot and killed April 21, 2014, in what was the first trial in Salt Lake City’s new federal courthouse. Angilau was a member of the Tongan Crip Gang and was on trial for racketeering.
Witnesses and court briefs have said Angilau picked up a pen or pencil from the defense table and rushed at the trial’s first witness — a former TCG member who was testifying about the gang operates and recruits.
A U.S. Marshal in the courtroom shot Angilau as he reached the witness stand. Audio of the episode, which was made public earlier this year, did not capture any commands or warnings from the marshal or anyone else before the shooting.
An autopsy report said three bullets struck Angilau in the back. A fourth shot entered the left elbow, exited the elbow pit, entered and exited the left bicep and stopped in the left side of Angilau’s chest.
Angilau’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the marshal who fired, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe. DOJ lawyers filed the video under seal. Reymann’s clients, which include The Salt Lake Tribune, intervened to force release of a redacted version of the video.
The Angilau family had asked that the unaltered version of the video be unsealed. Cleary rejected that motion.
Cleary sits on the federal bench in Tulsa, Okla. He was assigned the case because of conflicts of interest for Utah’s magistrate judges.