Fact Finder: D.A. Announces New Policy to Speed up Cases

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 11/01/2012 6:54 pm

  "18 years of absolute bliss with that man."

Deborah Churchill is still coming to grips with the loss of her husband Devin.   He died 12 days after he was shot during a road rage incident along Interstate 80 in Sparks.   It was Halloween morning,  October 31 of 2011.

For Deborah the pain has been unimaginable.  And she says having to wait month after month for answers only made it worse.

"Very hard.  A lot of grief.  Nobody talking to me. You guys are the only people who have contacted me,"  Churchill said.

Deborah was hoping charges would be brought against the man who shot her husband.
 But just last week Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick told News 4 that no charges will be filed.  Gammick says the evidence shows Devin Churchill who was unarmed, approached the other driver and assaulted him in his car after both drivers had pulled over.

And in fact a witness stated in a police report that  "Churchill made entry into the other person's car."
 
 Gammick says the other driver had no choice but to shoot.

"Self-defense.  He was being attacked and he used deadly force to prevent further injury to himself," Gammick told News 4.

But there is perhaps a larger question, and that is why did it take nearly one full year to reach this conclusion ?  We asked Gammick about the time frame in this case.

"We had three of these types of cases.  We had to get a system together to work with the other agencies to do that .  At the same time we were doing this we're working 25 active murder cases," Gammick said.

Those 25 active cases are the ones already moving through the court system.  Once charges are filed, there are strict timelines set by the courts.
And that's why those cases take priority.

"We get to those other cases as quickly as we can," Gammick added.

But Gammick says he's put a new policy in place. And from now on his office will meet directly with law enforcement on these types of cases when its not clear whether charges should be filed.

In the past police sent their cases over and waited for the D.A.'s office to make a decision  or send the case back.    A process that could take months.   As it did after Michael Boyle was shot and killed outside the Freighthouse district in July of of 2011. Nine months went by before the suspect, Matthew Mahaffey was charged  in that case.

Nine months of torture for the victim's mother, Joni Spade.

 "Its unbearable." Spade told us at the time.

From now on Gammick says these decisions will made jointly with both police investigators and prosecutors sitting at the table.  

"By doing it this way we get the latest information that police have, bring forward the latest law that exists and we should come up with a much better result  and a much quicker result," Gammick said.

 The changes won't help Deborah Churchill, who spent the past year waiting and wondering whether justice would be served.
 
"It makes me feel just left in the dirt," she said.

But Gammick says he hopes this new system will help avoid uneccessary delays in the future. And  help victims avoid unneccessary anguish.

One other note, Sparks Police spent eight months investigating this case. Chief Steve Keefer he says he supports the decision not to file charges against the shooter.
  
 

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