Mon February 11, 2013
Derek Williams Inquest To Begin
The high-profile case of a Milwaukee man who died in the back of a police car goes to an inquest Monday.
Derek Williams died in 2011 after being taken into custody. As he sat handcuffed in the back of a squad car, he said he was having trouble breathing, and begged the officer sitting in the front seat for help.
The officer eventually started to help Williams, but the 22-year-old African-American man died. A police video released last year (YouTube link) after a legal battle touched off more protests in Milwaukee. It also got the Milwaukee County district attorney to re-open the Williams case and ask a retired judge to serve as a special prosecutor for an inquest starting Monday. At the end of the inquest, a jury of six people is likely to offer an advisory verdict on whether to criminally charge any of the officers involved. Attorney Robin Shellow represents Williams' mother, Sonya Moore. Shellow says she hopes the jury finds the officers' failure to act substantially contributed to Williams's death, noting that prosecutor John Franke is considering possible felony charges including second-degree reckless homicide, “Second degree reckless is historically applied to omissions and failures to take actions soon enough or at all.”
Franke has also said he's considering first-degree reckless homicide, and a lesser charge — failure to render aid by law enforcement. When the video first came to public attention, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said that officers often have to deal with suspects who are faking health concerns.