MILWAUKEE -- An inquest into the death of Derek Williams may not begin for weeks, possibly months. The matter was discussed during a scheduling conference in court on Tuesday, October 16th.
Williams died in July 2011 while in Milwaukee police custody. His death has sparked controversy after the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner amended his cause of death from Sickle cell trait (natural causes) to homicide (death at the hands of another). Recently released dashcam video shows Williams in the back of a squad car apparently struggling to breathe.
An inquest will look into why Williams died and who, if anyone, was at fault.
In court on Tuesday, the special prosecutor, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Franke, asked the judge to give him the next three weeks to do more investigating on his own and decide if outside medical experts should be brought in. He also wanted to wait for the FBI to get further along in its federal investigation into what happened to Williams.
"Obviously the goal of the inquest is to have an inquest proceeding that is as fair as possible to the deceased subject of the inquest -- that is, Derek Williams, as fair as possible to his family, as fair as possible to any police officers who may have had some connection to this case, to the police department generally, and to the community as a whole," Franke said.
Franke told the court it will be important to determine what chain of events caused Williams' death -- whether it was a crisis linked to the Sickle Cell trait, or a broken bone in Williams' neck.
"More importantly, what led to the fracture of the bone in his neck and as seen on the tape, the actions or inactions of the officers as far as getting medical attention while he was pleading for help -- not being able to breathe," Jonathan Safran, Williams' family attorney said.
Family members of Williams say they are okay with the special prosecutor's request for more time.
"It's taken a year already to resolve this and get justice. I'm not in a hurry. The family is not in a hurry. We just want justice. Not being helped in that police car is what killed my nephew, and I will go to my grave saying that," Williams' great aunt Maleen Jordan.
The court will meet again in three weeks (November 14th) to decide when the inquest will begin. In the end, the special prosecutor will get an advisory verdict from a jury and make the final decision as to whether anyone should be criminally charged in the Williams' death.
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