A bill to change coroner inquests is moving forward after clearing the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Senate Bill 5769 was inspired by the coroner inquest into the 2015 Pasco police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes. A jury at the inquest decided the officers were justified under the current law in their decision to shoot the rock-throwing man who was high on meth.
The inquest was held nearly two years after the shooting after the coroner faced numerous obstacles, such as the funding for the proceeding and finding a location for it.
The bill would establish new rules, such as allowing county commissioners to overrule medical examiners who refuse to conduct inquests, requiring special consideration for deaths involving law enforcement and jail inmates, requiring counties to budget for inquests, requiring tribes to be notified if the death involves a tribal member and creating a deadline for setting an inquest location.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsored the bill, saying it was aimed at making inquests more useful in high-profile cases involving law enforcement.
“The Pasco inquest showed that coroners’ juries can play an important role in allaying community concerns,” Padden said in a news release. “By presenting the facts clearly, inquests allow the public to see what went into a decision to use deadly force. A transparent inquest process can go a long way toward clearing the air.”