A state appeals court took a step closer this week to opening a sealed court filing at the center of debate between the family of Kendrec McDade, a teen killed by Pasadena police, and the police union.
The court said in a letter Wednesday it was “considering vacating” a previous order to seal a court document, quoting excerpts of an independent report evaluating a fatal police shooting three years ago.
McDade, 19, was shot and killed by officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffery Newlen on March 24, 2012. They were responding to a robbery call. The 911 caller who reported the crime lied about the suspect being armed.
The Pasadena Police Officers’ Association sued the city last year to keep the report from becoming public. It claimed the report is part of officers' employment records and deserved confidentiality.
Civil rights activists and police watchdogs in Pasadena, along with the mother of Kendrec McDade and the Los Angeles Times have intervened in the lawsuit to fight for the report’s release.
The police union lost its lawsuit last year but appealed.
The independent report questioned the officer’s conduct during the shooting, and excerpts were accidentally included by attorneys for the police union in a court briefing.
At the request of the police union, the appeals court sealed the court briefing March 25, but civil rights attorneys involved in the case protested, arguing the briefing should be considered a public document since it was filed in court.
National press organizations, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press, filed a letter with the court arguing for the seal to be lifted.
“A lot of people have problems all the time in their efforts to get information from the police department," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.
The victim’s family and activists hope this latest development will bring them one step closer to gaining full access to the report.
The shooting of Kendrec McDade shocked the Pasadena community and has since sparked debate over whether the police department should have additional civilian oversight, beyond the city council’s committee on public safety.
The police union has until April 8 to convince the appeals court not to lift the seal on the court briefing, according to the letter sent by court clerk Joseph Lane.