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Judge orders Martinsburg to give reports on fatal police shooting to plaintiffs

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MARTINSBURG, West Virginia — The family of a Virginia man shot and killed by Martinsburg police officers has won a legal fight to obtain autopsy and state police reports from the incident.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert ordered the city on Wednesday to provide the reports to lawyer Sherman Lambert after redacting sensitive information in accordance with the E-Government Act, The Journal (http://bit.ly/1isFAcK) reported.

"The court finds no evidence to support that by producing these two documents that either party or person would need to be protected from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense," Seibert's order states.

Sherman sued the city last year on behalf of the estate of Wayne Arnold Jones, 50, of Stephens City, Virginia The estate is administered by Jones' brothers, Robert L. Jones and Bruce A. Jones.

The $200 million federal lawsuit alleges that officers used unreasonable and excessive force, shooting Wayne Jones 15 to 25 times while he was on the ground. Police said at the time that Jones drew a knife on officers and stabbed one of them during a scuffle.

A Berkeley County grand jury declined in October 2013 to indict the officers.

The plaintiffs claimed that the city failed to cooperate and would not provide the state police report without a protective order.

During talks in February, the two sides could not agree on a protective order proposed by the city. The plaintiffs said the order was too restrictive. The city said the order would not restrict dissemination of information contained in the report if it was obtained from other sources.

Without the report, the plaintiffs said they would not be able to move forward with the lawsuit, including amending it to add details regarding the condition of Jones' body.

The city said state police provided the investigative report with the understanding that it would be marked confidential and would be subject to a protective order if it were produced during discovery.

Seibert rejected that argument.

"The court finds that the defendant cited no law to indicate the court is bound to honor the agreement between Defendant City and WVSP requiring a protective order before producing these documents," the judge's order states.

The city also argued that privacy interests were at stake because the state police report contains information that would likely reveal techniques and methodology used by the state police and the Martinsburg Police Department.


Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

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