California city's case involving video release of police shooting dismissed by appeals court

By Tricia Erickson | Mar 24, 2017

GARDENA, Calif. — A federal appeals court recently dismissed a California city’s claim that a judge prematurely released video of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man.

According to an Associated Press report, a three-judge panel of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 13 said the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena failed to show that this type of situation would happen again in any future events involving police video.

“The city defendants failed to bring a stay motion in the district court, and they did not even discuss — let alone satisfy — the four-factor test that determines whether a stay pending appeal is warranted. Instead, they simply included a cursory request for a stay at the end of their opposition to the media organizations’ unsealing motion… ,” a court brief obtained by the Northern California Record said.

An attorney for the media organizations involved — which included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Los Angeles Times Communications — in the district and appeals case would not comment on the case.

Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was fatally shot in 2013 by police who were investigating a bike theft. Diaz-Zeferino was looking for the bike, which had been stolen from his brother, and was stopped by police. According to a CBS News report, the video shows a drunk Diaz-Zeferino lowering his hands three times despite police ordering him to keep his hands up. The video also records Diaz-Zeferino’s right hand being hidden from view near his waist when police opened fire. The police claimed they thought he was reaching for a weapon. Diaz-Zeferino was found unarmed; an autopsy revealed he also had methamphetamine in his system.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the release of the video in 2015. He reasoned that the public should be granted to opportunity see for themselves if the shooting was justified and to understand why Gardena agreed to settle the case for nearly $5 million.

The city claimed that Wilson abused his power as a judge by not stopping the release of the video until they could get a temporary stay and was appealing so it would change any similar future events.

“Rather than acknowledging their failure to follow the proper procedures or make the necessary showing for a stay pending appeal, the city defendants instead attempt to blame the district court for their loss, accusing Judge Stephen Wilson of acting with 'a casual disregard for the rule of law, public safety, [and] this court’s jurisdiction,'” the brief said.

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