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Southfield, Mich. – – March 24, 2016 – – A. Vince Colella, founding partner of Southfield, Michigan-based law firm, Moss & Colella, P.C., specializing in personal injury and civil rights, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today against the City of Dearborn for its refusal to turn over critical evidence in the fatal shooting of his client, Janet Wilson, by a Dearborn police officer. Evidence sought from the shooting, which took place on Jan. 27, 2016, includes dash cam video footage and 911 dispatch audio. The City of Dearborn has denied the request under a Michigan criminal procedural statute, MCL 767A.8 (materials obtained pursuant to an investigative subpoena).
According to the Complaint filed by Colella, who has handled a number of excess and deadly force cases against Michigan police officers, none of the materials subject to the request were obtained by the City of Dearborn pursuant to any investigative subpoenas.
“The dash cam video and audio are ‘records’ required to be maintained by the Dearborn police department and were not secured by the City in response to an investigational subpoena,” Colella said.
The shooting is currently under investigation by the Michigan State Police (MSP). Colella also made a request to the MSP for its entire investigation file.
“While the MSP has issued a letter indicating it would comply, the deadline for producing the materials expired on March 22 with no disclosures being made,” Colella said. “Given the delay in producing the materials, I expect that the state will deny our FOIA request under the ‘criminal investigation’ exemption.”
In anticipation of its denial, Colella has served notice on the Michigan Court of Claims of his intent to bring a FOIA action against the State for its denial as well.
“The government bears a heavy burden of justifying nondisclosure of information requested under FOIA.” Colella said. “With police violence cases under intense scrutiny, transparency is the cornerstone of maintaining positive community relations with law enforcement. The unnecessary delay in the release of video footage fosters a culture of distrust.”
About Moss & Colella
Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death. The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims. To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.