Nev. AG Won't Assist Clark County In Inquests

Clark County officials, trying to revamp its process for reviewing officer-involved deaths, will have to find an alternative that doesn't involve Nevada's attorney general.

County officials had hoped the Nevada attorney general's office would take over the role of the district attorney's office in the inquest process.

But Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has declined.

"Based on our concerns at this time, she is not inclined to participate," said Nicole Moon, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.

Cortez Masto's decision undermines one change county officials hoped to make to the controversial coroner's inquest process, in which a seven-person jury decides whether a police officer's use of lethal force was justified, excusable or criminal.

County law requires prosecutors from the district attorney's office to present facts and question witnesses at inquests.

That arrangement has been criticized because of the close working
relationship between county prosecutors and local police.

That and other concerns led the county to form a committee in August 2006 to review the inquest process and propose reforms.

Clark County commissioners are scheduled to consider two competing proposals at their Nov. 20 meeting.

Replacing the district attorney's office with the attorney general's office was part of both proposals.

But Cortez Masto has concerns about becoming involved in the inquest process, Moon said. For one, the attorney general, like the district attorney, works closely with law enforcement.

Moon also noted that under an agreement between the two offices, the attorney general prosecutes any officers whose actions are found criminal by an inquest.

Because of that, she said it would be a conflict of interest for the attorney general's office to become involved in the inquest proceedings.