Michael Lee Marshall Jail Death: Denver Sued to Release Video of Homicide

Michael Lee Marshall, a homeless man who reportedly struggled with symptoms related to paranoid schizophrenia, died in Denver Detention Center this past November after being restrained by deputies.

The Denver coroner's office has ruled Marshall's death a homicide — but the City of Denver has thus far refused to release video of the incident and its aftermath.

The Colorado Independent aims to change that.

The website has announced (in a piece written by former Westword staffer Laura Bond) that it is suing for the video's release; we've included the document here. And the law firm in question has had success in such efforts, most recently in connection with footage of a teenager being gunned down by a Chicago police officer.

The Independent's coverage of the Marshall case began on November 20 — the day he died.

The incident that led to his passing took place nine days earlier. It's described in the following Independent excerpt:
A Colorado Independent source familiar with Marshall’s confrontation four days later said Marshall had been pacing nervously in the jail’s sally port without a shirt, trying to walk around a sheriff’s deputy. They say a video of the incident shows the deputy — who’s white and far bigger than Marshall — pulling Marshall toward a bench, then down to the ground where the deputy pressed his knee into Marshall’s back to restrain him. Two other deputies joined in to keep Marshall down.

The source saw no show of heavy force in the video, but was struck by the deputies’ apparent failure to talk Marshall down and by how long they held Marshall facedown on the ground. In question is whether Marshall resisted, as the deputies have reportedly claimed, or was motionless, as the view from the video apparently suggests. Also in question is what sort of medical condition he had before the incident.

Another video reportedly shows Marshall’s face, lifeless and blue, as medical personnel carried him out of the jail in a restraint chair.
The Denver medical examiner ultimately determined that Marshall likely choked on his own vomit after being restrained during an "acute psychotic episode."

According to Fox31, the City of Denver maintains that the video showing what happened to Marshall won't be released until after an investigation is completed.

But the Independent doesn't feel the public should wait — and the Boulder office of Loevy & Loevy, a law firm specializing in civil rights matters, has delivered this message in a complaint naming Mary Dulacki, in her capacity as the records coordinator for the Denver Department of Safety.

Lovey & Lovey is the same firm that sued the City of Chicago to release video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald sixteen times on October 20, 2014. It took more than a year for the video to be released — and after it was made public, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.

Here's the McDonald footage. Warning: It may disturb some viewers.

The Independent's lawsuit rejects Denver's arguments for restricting access to the Marshall video.

This passage presents some of the arguments.
Defendant’s boilerplate assertions show no consideration of the particular facts of this case.

Specifically, Defendant has arbitrarily and capriciously ignored facts showing that release of video or audio recordings clearly would not interfere with or jeopardize any allegedly ongoing investigation. Mayor Michael B. Hancock has publicly stated his position that the investigation may be compromised if the video is released before the involved officers are interviewed. But this explanation is arbitrary and capricious when, according to several reports, the city has already shown the video to the sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident.

If the sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident have already been shown the video recording, then the release of the video would not interfere with or jeopardize any ongoing investigation.
Thus far, the City of Denver hasn't commented on the lawsuit.

Continue to see a Fox31 item about the filing, followed by the aforementioned document.

The Colorado Independent v. Mary Dulacki

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts