WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After weeks of protests to do so, a North Carolina judge is set to decide on whether the body camera footage that captured the death of John Neville will be released to the public.
On Wednesday, a superior judge heard arguments from an attorney who represents a group of media outlets, including the Winston-Salem Journal, as to why the video should be released.
The attorney for the petition, Mike Tadych, said “we gave ample opportunity to address our concerns to the court in what we think are the reasons … the videos should be released.”
On Dec. 4, Neville died from serious injuries sustained while in custody at the Forsyth County Detention Center.
On July 8, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neal announced that a medical examiner determined he died from a brain injury. He was unable to breath while being restrained by authorities, which caused a lack of oxygen to his brain.
Five detention officers, and an on-duty nurse were arrested and charged in involuntary manslaughter on July 8.
The petition demands that body camera and security cameras showing the incident be released to the public.
“It may enhance the discussion,” Tadych explained. “Remember what the district attorney said, the recordings and the medical examiners reports are the evidence in this case. I think to the people who spoke that not enough information is out … that a credible point. And that’s all we’re ever after.”
At the July 8 news conference, the attorney for Neville’s family announced that they did not want the video being released.
On Tuesday, a day before the hearing, the family reversed their decision.
Neville’s son, Sean said the video is extremely difficult to watch.
“I’ve seen it and it is something that will always stick with me,” he said.
He said the family’s decision to support the release of the video came after months of grieving, processing the video themselves and reflecting on the impact it could have.
“As time has gone on, including the community more, seems to be the best way to make things happen quickly … We appreciate that his death matters, because most people don’t get that luxury,” he said.
Other family members said, they want the video to be seen by the public, to give context to those who choose to protest.
Brienne Neville released a statement which reads, “On Monday I asked protesters ‘what was their why?’ I wanted to know why they were out there … In our society an inmate is the scum of the Earth regardless of innocence. So, I’m moved to see the community embracing the ones often thrown out, forgotten, or ridiculed.”
Wednesday after the hearing, some of John’s family members viewed the video of his death for the first time.
His daughter Natasha Martin said her father said he could not breath more than 20 times. At one point, he was seen struggling on his chest.
She also claims that detention officers were heard joking about his struggle.
“One of the keys broke inside the handcuffs, and they said, ‘Oh that’s coming out of your paycheck,” Martin said. “They’re were laughing over my dad, while he’s in distress.”
One of the most powerful moments, to her, was when her father was being carried out of the holding cell, after he became unconscious.
“You can hear inmates sing Amazing Grace. You can hear them say, ‘Yo, rest in peace John’. And saying, ‘you killed that man.’ Like they’re singing Amazing Grace in the background. That to me was the most powerful thing. You equate that song to a funeral,” she said.
If the judge decides to release the video, it could take several more days before it is released. Attorney Tadych explained that in some cases it has to be edited to blur faces of those not involved in the incident.
If it is released to the public, Sean asked everyone who watches it to do with a clear heart and mind.
“With all due respect to the media, he’s a story. With all due respect to the protesters, he’s a cause. To me and my family, he’s a person. He’s our father … We ask people, if they see it, regulate that anger. That anger’s going to build up, from a human standpoint, and use it to do something positive,” he said.