The Latino Civic Alliance has requested that Tri-City judges allow the Franklin County coroner to use the courthouse to hold an inquest into the fatal police shooting of Pasco man.
Superior Court judges told Coroner Dan Blasdel in a September letter that the Franklin County Courthouse could not be used for the inquest, which is expected to last at least weeks.
The inquest is scheduled to start Feb. 23 at the TRAC facility in Pasco.
Holding the inquest at the courthouse could cause security problems, delay criminal hearings and disrupt day-to-day activities, the judges said in a letter to Blasdel.
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“We simply do not have the luxury of taking one of our courtrooms out of service,” the judges said. “Legitimate court proceedings would be canceled. Justice for our citizens would be unnecessarily delayed.”
Blasdel asked to hold the inquest into the Feb. 10 death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, in a courtroom and use court staff during the proceedings. The inquest, which are uncommon in the area, will allow a jury to determine the cause and manner of death in the case.
The jury also will determine whether the shooting by three Pasco police officers was justified, though their recommendation will not be considered by Prosecutor Shawn Sant, who has already cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing.
The alliance wrote a letter saying not holding the proceedings in the courthouse sends a message “that (Sant) influences the court.” The letter also stated using the TRAC facility will make the proceedings more difficult to conduct.
“We find that your unique stance to reject access to use (a) public building funded by taxpayers for the inquest exceeds your limitations to represent the people’s court,” said the letter to the judges.