Justice for Stanley Gibson or Just an End-Around Coroner’s Inquest Reforms?

Stanley L. Gibson

Stanley L. Gibson, a disabled Army vet, was murdered by Ofc. Jesus Arevalo on Dec. 12, 2011

Within the last few days, it’s been reported that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is close to reaching a decision regarding the murder of Stanley L. Gibson by a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Additionally, reports have stated that Wolfson is “99% sure” that he will seek an indictment against Jesus Arevalo, the officer that fired 7 shots from an AR-15 into the Gibson’s back as he sat unarmed and clearly visible inside his car, which had been pinned and immobilized by several police vehicles. While there has been no official statement regarding what exactly this imminent decision might be or what charges may be sought, informed sources have indicated that within the next sixty days Wolfson will make up his mind whether the case will be put before a grand jury for a possible indictment against Arevalo.

At first glance, putting things in the hands of a grand jury would seem to be a step forward, in that it at least presents a possibility of Ofc. Arevalo being held accountable for his actions that day. Las Vegas police have a long and storied history of avoiding any sort of consequences for their heavy-handed tactics, no matter how blatant and deadly they have been. Steve Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion when given the opportunity to make Las Vegas area law enforcement pay for their misdeeds.

A large part of the blame for this lack of accountability can be attributed to the long standing practice of determining whether police shootings were justified through the quasi-judicial Coroner’s Inquest process. Badly weighted in favor of exonerating the police rather than investigating the circumstances involved, the Coroner’s Inquests functioned more as a dog and pony show to construct a cover story than a fact finding  effort. As such, it should come as no surprise that only one single police killing was ever found to be unjustified (the DA still declined to prosecute the cops involved). The sheer odds of that being true over the course of 40+ years, including 378 shootings since 1990 alone, attest to the imbalance inherent in such a system.

William Mosher testifies during Coroner Inquest into the shooting of Erik Scott

Accelerating rates of officer involved shootings, many resulting in killings, along with outrage generated by the subsequent questionable exoneration of the police, led to demands to amend the Coroner’s Inquest. An overhaul of the Coroner’s Inquest was approved by county commissioners, including provisions to have victims represented by independent council in order to make the process more fair. However, this revised system of investigating shootings has never been implemented, due to the union representing Las Vegas area police (who not coincidentally believe Arevalo did nothing wrong) has advised them not to participate in Coroner’s Inquest proceedings because of their “adversarial nature.”

However, many of the original flaws within the Coroner’s Inquest system continue to exist and in some cases are even worse when grand juries are used to determine whether police and other officials should be prosecuted for questionable actions. Like the Coroner’s inquest, grand jury proceedings are conducted exclusively by the District Attorney’s office, who works closely with, and is often dependent on the cooperation of, police officers in order to secure convictions in cases they bring to trial. It is entirely up to them what evidence will be presented, who is called to testify, and how those witnesses  are questioned. In the past, prosecutors have often displayed a tendency to construct their cases in such a way so as to paint police in a favorable light. This conflict of interest was one of the most cited issues with the Coroner’s Inquest.

When the Government Prosecutes One of Its Own, the Scales of Justice are Tipped Heavily Against the Truth Coming Out

Even worse is the secrecy of grand juries. Nevada conducts their grand jury proceedings under what amounts to a full gag order. Nobody involved in a grand jury may  publicly disclose any of the evidence presented to the jury, information obtained by the jury, events or statements occurring in front of the jury, or even the results of an investigation by the grand jury. The lone exception to this is individual witnesses, who are limited to discussing their own personal testimony. Breaking these restrictions is a criminal act.

What this effectively means is that the DA’s office and the courts have complete control over what information goes before the jury and what is disclosed to the public afterwards. As lopsided as the Coroner’s inquest was, at least it was a public spectacle that was available to be scrutinized by the community at large. No such transparency exists with grand juries. Basically, a prosecutor can call only sympathetic or unconvincing witnesses and do a half-hearted  effort while questioning them to ensure the jury doesn’t find enough evidence to support a criminal charge and then hold their failure to issue an indictment up as  proof that a shooting was justified. Nobody outside of the grand jury room would be able to refute this assertion since everything took place behind closed doors and none of them are allowed to speak about what they saw.

Fact is, using a grand jury to determine whether police shootings should be prosecuted violates pretty much every aspect of the proposed reforms (from the Nevada ACLU) for the Coroner’s Inquest:

  • Allow the attorneys for both the officers and the victims to participate directly in the process and ask questions during the inquest;
  • Have a neutral presenter of facts that is not the District Attorney’s Office;
  • Be limited to relevant questions about the decedent and the involved officers;
  • Make determinations of fact and leave decisions about whether criminal charges should proceed to the District Attorney;
  • Follow the same Rules of Evidence used in courtrooms (this is one singular exception); and
  • Be fully transparent and open to the public.

Historically, indictments of police through the grand jury have been hard to come by. In general, bringing cases before the grand jury are the exception rather than the rule and there’s a reason for that. As stated by the attorney for the family of a man murdered by police in White Plains, NY after the grand jury decided not to indict the cops:

“…the grand jury is often used to cover politically for a figure, for a district attorney. So if the grand jury indicts, it’s not the district attorney’s fault. They simply presented the evidence, and the grand jury indicted. If the grand jury chooses not to indict, well, then the grand jury essentially is blamed, but that’s an anonymous group of 23 individuals.”

Nor is the idea that grand juries might be used as a smoke screen to protect rather than punish police a new concept. Just a few months ago Albuquerque, NM. suspended the use of grand juries to investigate police shootings after criticism of their use and the fact that (like Vegas) not one single shooting has ever been ruled unjustified:

For more than two decades, police officials have countered criticism of dozens of officer-involved shootings in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County by noting that every case is reviewed by a grand jury…

No one involved in the process can recall a single “unjustified” finding since the process was put in place in the late 1980s in response to criticism of police shootings at the time — even in a case in which the officer was fired and the city paid big bucks to settle a civil lawsuit.

Critics say that’s by design.

“It looks to me like a device that’s designed to give police a pass on shootings,” said Ray Twohig, a longtime civil rights attorney. “The public should have no confidence whatsoever in this process — there’s no independent investigation … The goal is: ‘Let’s not indict any cops…’ ”

Attorney Shannon Kennedy said…it is designed to treat officers differently from ordinary citizens.

“They are basically operating above the law,” she said. “Officers in APD know about this process; they know they will be exonerated. This contributes to more and more police shootings, because there is this culture of no accountability.”

District Attorney Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly inspired a lot of faith that he will do the right thing in cases of police abuse. In “DA statements” that have taken the place of the Coroner’s Inquest since they were put on hold, Wolfson has determined that cops shouldn’t be punished for kicking a restrained man suffering from diabetic shock in the head first because it “wouldn’t be in the community’s best interest” and later because Henderson cops are trained to kick people in the head while arresting them.

That there is enough evidence to support charges shouldn’t be in doubt being that there is a video of the shooting clearly showing that Stanley Gibson didn’t represent an imminent threat and statements by sources within LVMPD have confirmed that Jesus Arevalo knew about the plan to force Gibson from the car without using deadly force. If there was a video of anyone else unnecessarily shooting an unarmed person, that person would be sitting in jail awaiting a trial, not sitting at home on paid vacation like Jesus Arevalo is right now.

To ensure that there isn’t even the appearance of any sort of official favoritism being extended to police officers (or other government employees) Wolfson needs to do the right thing by charging Arevalo directly and placing this case in the hands of a trial jury, rather than gambling on a grand jury issuing an indictment first. A gamble that members of this community aren’t so sure he is willing to go “all in” on. Furthermore, any charges brought should include charge of murder, since that’s what truly happened that day.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Spread Nevada CopBlock!

Like what we are doing? Share it with the world.

36 Responses to “Justice for Stanley Gibson or Just an End-Around Coroner’s Inquest Reforms?”

  1. speezo August 21, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    I wish that this man finds justice. There is way too much corruption and cops vs citizens activity. It is a sad state of affairs in many ways that we are crafting new ways to tie people up legally in order to keep arrest numbers up to justify the institutions that have been built in the past.

    • NVCopBlock.org August 21, 2012 at 3:12 am #

      Thanks speezo. It is sad that corruption has reached this level and frequency.

  2. Ryan Joseph August 21, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    police violating civil rights and committing murder?! wait, is this suppose to be something new?!?! pigs murder american citizens everyday and are never held accountable. to the people on secret grand juries who decide never to indict, i hope one of your children is the next victem of unjustified police brutality/violence. then maybe you will feel the pain you cause other families when you refuse to hold these peice of shit criminal gang members accountable for their blatent disregard for law and human life. fuck the cops

    • NVCopBlock.org August 21, 2012 at 3:15 am #

      It’s not that this is either surprising or any sort of new development Ryan. The problem is that dangling the grand jury in front of them is making Stanley’s family and friends feel hopeful that his killer will be held accountable. That’s why it is important that pressure be kept on Wolfson to do the right thing and bring actual charges against Arevalo.

  3. Don Dierdorff January 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    As an honorably discharged Persian Gulf Veteran, I was banned from using the VA for allegedly making terrorist threats, which never happened. After contacting Dina Titus’s office, I was informed I could get my medication from Nellis AFB, but after going to Nellis, I was held by their MPs, searched and kicked off the base. The following day, four armed VA police came out to my house to have me sign a form for John Bright, the VA Director. When I got up to get a pen, one of them asked me “What do you think you’re doing!” I explained to him that I was getting a pen!

    Now that I have an attorney who is working on my VA disability case, a seperate matter, Joe Heck and John Bright will do nothing to assist me in finding out who was behind this. They want to pretend as though nothing ever happened. It is my own belief that the VA police came out to my house to use deadly force, and Joe Heck and John Bright are aiding and abetting a very corrupt system which protects the guilty, especially as it pertains to the VA.

    Any comments are welcome.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Clause. Honesty From The D.A.’s Office? That, Virginia, Is A Fairy Tale! | clarkcountycriminalcops - August 31, 2012

    […] Justice for Stanley Gibson or Just an End-Around Coroner’s Inquest Reforms? (nvcopblock.org) Share this: Pin ItShare on TumblrDiggEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Clark County District Attorney, Coroner's Inquest, Current Events, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Officer Involved Shootings and tagged Bernard Pate, Detective Casey Clarkson, Detective Christopher Tucker, Pamela Weckerly, Steve Wolfson by clarkcountycriminalcops. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. Official Cop Block Press Passes: Take Your Activism to the Next Level | Cop Block - September 9, 2012

    […] can be an important consideration when confronted by an armed, aggressive, and at times violent person. This is, of course, why we encourage filming the police […]

  3. Official Cop Block Press Passes: Take Your Activism to the Next Level | OccuWorld - September 9, 2012

    […] can be an important consideration when confronted by an armed, aggressive, and at times violent person. This is, of course, why we encourage filming the police […]

  4. A Full menu this week at the A-Cafe (10-13-12) | Vegas Anarchist Cafe - October 12, 2012

    […] an employee of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, late last year. In a veiled attempt to avoid holding Arevalo accountable for his actions, District Attorney Steve Wolfson has submitted the case to a grand jury rather than […]

  5. Post-Apocalyptic Anarchy (Cafe) in Las Vegas | Vegas Anarchist Cafe - December 21, 2012

    […] Arevalo won’t ever be charged with the murder of Stanley Gibson has done just that. Why this was no surprise to those of us that have been following the case over the past year and what we plan to do in […]

  6. The Las Vegas A-Cafe will be “on location” this week (1/19/12) | Vegas Anarchist Cafe - January 19, 2013

    […] Among other things, District Attorney Steve Wolfson has continued his pattern of disdain for the safety of the residents of Las Vegas and the surrounding area by refusing to hold Jesus Arevalo accountable for the cold-blooded murder of Stanley Gibson. […]

  7. Help Expose the Official Cover-Up of Stanley Gibson’s Murder by LVMPD | Vegas Anarchist Cafe - February 27, 2013

    […] first “Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review,” regarding the murder of Stanley Gibson by Metro Officer Jesus Arevalo, is scheduled to take place on Thursday February 28th beginning at 9:00 am and will be located at […]

  8. Unite with Nevada Cop Block to Oppose the Cover Up of Stanley Gibson's Murder by LVMPD | Nevada CopBlock - February 27, 2013

    […] first “Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review,” regarding the murder of Stanley Gibson by Metro Officer Jesus Arevalo, is scheduled to take place on Thursday February 28th beginning at 9:00 am and will be located at […]

  9. WILL THERE EVER BE JUSTICE? by Rondha Gibson | Nevada CopBlock - February 27, 2013

    […]  The actions of LVMPD & Jesus Arevalo […]

  10. WILL THERE EVER BE JUSTICE? | Cop Block - March 1, 2013

    […]  The actions of LVMPD & Jesus Arevalo […]

  11. WILL THERE EVER BE JUSTICE? - Unofficial Network - March 1, 2013

    […]  The actions of LVMPD & Jesus Arevalo […]

  12. Las Vegas Metro Police: Chalk Washes Off, But Injustice Never Will | Nevada CopBlock - June 25, 2013

    […] attention to the history of abuses, corruption, and outright murders by Las Vegas area police and a total lack of accountability for such by those that oversee local police departments, three members of the Sunset Activist […]

  13. Interview With Nevada Cop Block Editor, Kelly W. Patterson, RE: "Second Saturday" Graffiti (Audio Clip) | Nevada CopBlock - June 26, 2013

    […] drawing on a sidewalk with (wait for it) sidewalk chalk, which really is nothing more nor less than an attempt by the LVMPD to keep us from exposing their crimes and in all likelihood will do nothing but backfire and create even more […]

  14. Las Vegas Metro Police: Chalk Washes Off, But Injustice Never Will | OccuWorld - July 10, 2013

    […] attention to the history of abuses, corruption, and outright murders by Las Vegas area police and a total lack of accountability for such by those that oversee local police departments, three members of the Sunset Activist […]

  15. Official Cop Block Press Passes: Take Your Activism to the Next Level | Nevada CopBlock - August 2, 2013

    […] can be an important consideration when confronted by an armed, aggressive, and at times violent person. This is, of course, why we encourage filming the police […]

  16. The LVMPD's Killer Reputation: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Nevada CopBlock - August 10, 2013

    […] veteran suffering from a PTSD induced panic attack and in no way representing a threat to anyone was murdered by Jesus Arevalo. Those seven unnecessary shots fired from Ofc. Arevalo’s AR-15 were the ticket to what is […]

  17. Las Vegas Police Brutality Compilation Video | Nevada State Personnel Watch - May 3, 2014

    […] has already been held, this video is well worth watching to see just howcorrupt, violent, and completely unaccountable for their actions Las Vegas area police are. Among the notable clips included within this video […]

  18. Did Las Vegas Police Retaliate Against Nevada Cop Block for Local Activism? | Nevada Cop BlockNevada Cop Block - May 9, 2014

    […] that they intended to ensure Stanley Gibson would join Erik Scott, Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, and Henry Rowe on the long list of people […]

  19. Did the LVMPD Retaliate Against Nevada Cop Block Members? | Cop Block - May 10, 2014

    […] that they intended to ensure Stanley Gibson would join Erik Scott, Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, and Henry Rowe on the long list of people […]

  20. Did the LVMPD Retaliate Against Nevada Cop Block Members? - ANOMALY RADIO - May 10, 2014

    […] that they intended to ensure Stanley Gibson would join Erik Scott, Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, and Henry Rowe on the long list of people […]

  21. LVMPD Use of Force Policy Reforms a Grand Success | Cop Block - June 2, 2014

    […] the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the complicity that local representatives of the "justice" system often play in those […]

  22. Join Us For the 2nd Annual "Chalk the Police State" - July 18th | Nevada Cop BlockNevada Cop Block - July 13, 2014

    […] couldn’t be much more obvious that the LVMPD and other Las Vegas area police have no real (or even feigned) interest in holding any of their trigger happy gang members accountable for there actions, no matter how […]

  23. LV Constable John Bonaventura Ordered Cover-Up of Illegal Data Searches | Nevada Cop Block - July 20, 2014

    […] nature with which police departments in the Las Vegas area don’t just look the other way, but actively work to ensure that their officers are never held accountable for their […]

  24. Las Vegas Police Beat a Man for "Not Moving Fast Enough" | Cop Block - August 13, 2014

    […] is under no obligation to actually listen to, so it doesn’t), this incident will be “investigated” by other people working for Metro and then declared justified. The history of Las Vegas area […]

  25. LVMPD Beat a Man for "Not Moving Fast Enough" | Nevada Cop Block - August 13, 2014

    […] is under no obligation to actually listen to, so it doesn’t), this incident will be “investigated” by other people working for Metro and then declared justified. The history of Las Vegas area […]

  26. Death Threats Received After Interview of Erik Scott's Father | Nevada Cop Block - August 23, 2014

    […] Bill doesn’t personally believe the threats are linked to his son’s murderers or any of their enablers within the LVMPD. Pete Wichert, however, does believe it’s connected. Since it’s rather common, when […]

  27. Interview with Erik Scott’s Father Inspires Death Threats - Wide Awake America - August 23, 2014

    […] Bill doesn’t personally believe the threats are linked to his son’s murderers or any of their enablers within the LVMPD. Pete Wichert, however, does believe it’s connected. Since it’s rather common, when […]

  28. Interview with Erik Scott's Father Inspires Death Threats | Cop Block - August 23, 2014

    […] Bill doesn’t personally believe the threats are linked to his son’s murderers or any of their enablers within the LVMPD. Pete Wichert, however, does believe it’s connected. Since it’s rather common, when […]

  29. Nevada Cop Block Members Sue LVMPD for Chalk Arrests/Harassment | Nevada Cop Block - September 26, 2014

    […] (see the picture to the right) early on during the protests that I don’t believe they ever even considered accepting and still haven’t shown any real interest in to […]

  30. Nevada Cop Block Members File Lawsuit vs Las Vegas Police Over Chalk Arrests - Wide Awake America - September 27, 2014

    […] (see the picture to the right) early on during the protests that I don’t believe they ever even considered accepting and still haven’t shown any real interest in to […]

  31. Nevada Cop Block Members File Lawsuit vs Las Vegas Police Over Chalk Arrests | Cop Block - September 27, 2014

    […] (see the picture to the right) early on during the protests that I don’t believe they ever even considered accepting and still haven’t shown any real interest in to […]

Leave a Reply