Target: Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney
Goal: Unconditionally release the body camera footage of husband’s killing to Laney Sweet.
An Arizona police officer recently shot and killed Daniel Shaver as he crawled on the ground pleading with police not to shoot, according to witnesses. While prosecutors in the Arizona country where the shooting occurred have at least decided to charge the officer identified as the shooter in this horrifying incident, they are now refusing to release body camera footage to Laney Sweet, Shaver’s widow.
Laney Sweet recorded a bizarre meeting with prosecutors in the case and uploaded in to YouTube. In the interview Bill Montgomery explained that, to protect the viability of his case, he would not allow Sweet to view the body camera footage unless she agreed not to share information contained in the video. Fellow prosecutor Susie Charbel then interjected that Bill Montgomery was, “extending [Laney Sweet] a lot of courtesies… by having [her] go ahead and see something this difficult.” Characterizing showing a widow footage of her husband’s death as a courtesy is perverse, but even Bill Montgomery’s comparative reasonableness suggests that prosecutorial priorities are profoundly misplaced in this case.
Allowing a widow to see the record of her partner’s death should not be understood as an indulgence. While a prosecutor’s responsibility to vigorously pursue a case is grave, it is altogether outweighed by the duty of compassion that we all bear toward the bereaved. Sign on to urge Bill Montgomery to do his duty to victims of police violence.
Dear County Attorney Bill Montgomery,
I am troubled by accounts of your treatment of Laney Sweet, the widow of police shooting victim Daniel Shaver. Your decision to prosecute the officer identified as Mr. Shaver’s killer marks a commendable change from the recent tendency of prosecutors to ignore police misconduct, but your zeal has gone too far. Allowing Laney Sweet to view the footage of her husband’s killing is not, as your colleague has suggested, a courtesy. Rather, it is one of the most basic demonstrations of respect for her loss that you can offer.
Exercising complete control over information about the case would undoubtedly make your prosecution easier. Perhaps, as you have suggested, keeping discussions of body camera footage away from the media would even close potential avenues for appeal and ensure a successful prosecution. I would suggest, however, that those practical considerations should be secondary to respecting Laney Sweet as a bereaved victim of police violence.
Show Laney Sweet the footage of her husband’s killing. Ask her, if you wish, not to discuss the footage with the media, but show her regardless. Laney Sweet is entitled to see the footage of her husbands death and to do with its information as her conscience dictates. Your job is to react to the changing circumstances affecting your case, not to micro-manage victims.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Zeb Micelli