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Judge Says Utah Journalists Can Move Forward With Efforts To Unseal Courtroom Shooting Video

Siale Angilau, 25, was on trial for violating federal RICO laws.

A coalition of Utah journalists have made progress in the fight to access video footage of a U.S. marshal shooting and killing a defendant in federal court. Federal agencies have refused to provide the video despite multiple public records requests.

Journalists in Utah say the public has a right to know what exactly transpired the day 25-year-old Siale Angilau was killed. Angilau-a man federal prosecutors identified as member of the Tongan Crip Gang was indicted on federal racketeering charges. His April 2014 trial was the first to take place in Salt Lake City’s new federal courthouse. Authorities say Angilau charged a witness who was testifying about the gang when a U.S. marshal shot him. The incident was caught on video.

“The significance of the video is that both sides say it supports their case,” says attorney Jeff Hunt. He represents Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He says attorneys for the government say the video proves the marshal acted reasonably. Angilau’s family, however, filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the marshal used excessive force.

Hunt filed a motion on behalf of 18 media outlets to intervene in the family’s lawsuit. This allows media to be involved in the case for the limited purpose of arguing the video be released to the public. Last week, a judge granted the motion.

McKenzie Romero is president of the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She stresses, the organization takes no position on whether the marshal should have shot Angilau. 

“Our interest here is seeking information that we believe should be public,” Romero says. “Because it happened in a public courtroom. This is the court for the people. This is a public matter happening in open court. On the record.”

U.S. agencies have yet to release the name of the marshal who shot Angilau. Government attorneys say they want to prevent deputies from hesitating to protect people in the courtroom when there is a threat of violence. 

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