October 20, 2015

In Search of Facts

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 7:37 pm

JustTheFactsAccording to Tuesday’s Coeur d’Alene Press skews paper article headlined Nault’s family still seeks answers, some family members of deceased Coeur d’Alene High School student Reggie Nault have engaged an attorney to monitor the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department investigation into his death.

OpenCdA sympathetically but loudly commends the young man’s family for engaging an attorney to represent them in their efforts to learn the facts leading or contributing to his death.

When someone dies as this young man did and the facts of his death are slow in coming, family and friends are deeply emotionally involved.  That very understandable emotional involvement can sometimes lead to clouded judgements.  In this instance, the young man’s family seems to have recognized that they would be comforted by having a professional and competent advocate evaluate the information unemotionally and objectively as it comes in.   The family properly and wisely engaged an attorney to represent them in seeking and evaluating the results of the investigation.

To some, the family’s engaging an attorney looks like the prelude to a wrongful death action.

To others, engaging an attorney looks like the family is dissatisfied with the progress of the investigation.

Both perspectives have some merit, and both validate the family’s taking exactly the action it did.

As OpenCdA has often said, the Kootenai County justice rug has become lumpier and lumpier as incidents have been swept under it.  By engaging an attorney to monitor the investigation of Reggie Nault’s death and evaluate the results of that investigation, the young man’s family is honoring his life by using his death to keep a trained and watchful eye on those who might be tempted to lift the rug’s edge and sweep again.  The facts are the facts, and they will not change.

There can be no genuinely good outcome when a young person dies prematurely.  The closest thing to a comforting outcome is that the person’s family hopes others will learn from the facts of his death and use what they learn to help themselves and others avoid similar outcomes.

We think the Nault family’s action toward that end is honorable and commendable.


  1. Honorable and commendable indeed.

    Comment by Appalled — October 21, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  2. Of course it is honorable and commendable. However, the public never sees the toxicology reports. Some drugs these days, don’t even show up on them. I am one for legalizing ALL drugs after the age of gun ownership and alcohol permissions. Once we eliminate the drug cartels because there is no profit, our nation might come back to normal. Get rid of the profit and allow people to assume personal responsibility. Just imagine the money we would save on prison costs and worthless attorneys. Our justice system is nothing but a drug mill. Let the population understand the results of drug addiction when they are all moved into District 9 and given free drugs and clean needles. There are some things a nation cannot fight and that is addiction. When the battle is lost, it is lost and only that person can climb out of that ugly ravine. Three strikes and they are out, give them what they want. No young person needs to die because of drugs, but I bet the justice never – ever close enough to get this case solved. It might put them all out of business. Sad.

    Comment by Stebbijo — October 21, 2015 @ 9:03 pm

  3. … as in IF there are any toxicology reports ordered.

    Comment by Stebbijo — October 21, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

  4. Stebbijo,

    The overall death investigation would have been much broader than just the post-mortem examination results, though those results would have been a part of it. The investigators would hope but not assume that the body would be soon available for the PME.

    The family’s attorney is better prepared professionally and emotionally than family members to evaluate the quality and completeness of the overall death investigation performed by law enforcement and the Medical Examiner (a forensic pathologist in Spokane). After studying the entire investigative report package, the attorney is also better able to objectively evaluate the reasonableness of the Kootenai County Coroner’s assignment of the mode of death, typically natural, accidental, homicide, or suicide.

    You made an important point when you said the pubic never sees the toxicology reports. I believe that the public needs to be able to see the entire investigative report once a charging decision has been made by the prosecuting attorney and any legal proceedings have been completed. Having access to the entire report and studying it objectively gives the public insight into the competence and integrity of elected officials including the sheriff, the coroner, and the prosecuting attorney.

    Comment by Bill — October 22, 2015 @ 7:05 am

  5. Wow, nice comments on the CDA press article. It only confirms what I’ve come to think of our “fellow citizens” based upon the few jury trials I’ve witnessed or followed; they are full of envy (of those who could potentially get an award in a civil action).

    Comment by JSmetal — October 23, 2015 @ 7:29 am

  6. JSMetal,

    The most complete and accurate account of the incident and relevant circumstances should be in the complete investigative report done by the investigating agency. That report should include references to the physical and testimonial evidence gathered during the investigation. That report plus the Spokane ME and Coroner’s own hopefully independent investigation of the body will likely be sent to the prosecutor who should determine if there was sufficient admissible evidence of criminal activity to warrant any criminal prosecution. But the absence of criminal prosecution does not foreclose possible civil action using the results of the investigation.

    The point I wanted to make in my post is that the young man’s family wisely recognized that they would benefit from having a professionally qualified advocate objectively evaluate the results of the investigation to help them better understand what happened.

    I am by no means suggesting that his family should rely exclusively on the investigation completed by the Sheriff’s Office and the Coroner or that they should blindly accept the decision of the Prosecutor. The family’s attorney would properly point out to the family any defects in work done or conclusions reached by any agency of the State.

    And under absolutely no circumstances should anyone rely on the accuracy or completeness of any stories generated by our local and regional skews media. I am skeptical that any of them will take the time to obtain and study the investigative reports when they become fully public documents.

    Comment by Bill — October 23, 2015 @ 8:07 am

  7. Bill, I agree with what you said. I was commenting on the comments people left on the CDApress article about the family hiring an attorney. As far as I can tell, there has been zero discussion of a civil action being filed and people were already screaming something along the lines of “greedy ambulance chaser!” I have come to see that most people have the attitude “I got hurt or x happened to me and I didn’t sue” so they are loath to award damages to Plaintiffs in civil cases. It is envy, nothing else.

    Comment by JSmetal — October 23, 2015 @ 3:08 pm

  8. JSMetal,

    I was pretty sure that’s what you meant.

    As you can tell, I feel very strongly that victims and their families would benefit from timely engaging legal counsel or other appropriate professional advocates to intervene on their behalf. The presence of legal counsel or other advocates can encourage thoroughness and professional conduct while discouraging careless or intentional corner-cutting and preferential treatment detrimental to victims and families.

    Comment by Bill — October 23, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  9. I read the update about this case on the Press, today, attributing alcohol as a factor in this teenager’s apparent accidental death. One thing comes to mind, does immediate family need to request the autopsy and how many deaths are just ‘assumed causes’ without further inquiry or testing? For instance, are suicides documented as such without toxicology reports? Also, the article mentions that only the public can know that it was alcohol related, we are not allowed the details. So, did they just order a BA test only? What else did they order? Also, when a family requests and autopsy, does this cost the family anything? Did they need to hire an attorney to get this information? Are autopsys routine, or are they only ordered if investigative authorities consider it necessary?

    Comment by Stebbijo — October 24, 2015 @ 10:07 am

  10. Stebbijo,

    You’ve raised a number of questions that I’m going to be addressing in my next post on this. Good questions. There is a lot missing from the skews paper reporting thus far, partly because it is doubtful the reporter has access to the KCSO report. Clearly that report has not been completed. The family’s attorney will have access to that report at some point, though their attorney may have to pry it out of the county. Likewise, the Nault family through its counsel should be able to see the entire Coroner’s report, not just its conclusions about manner and cause of death. If there are sufficient evidentiary challenges to the Coroner’s determination, there may be pressure to convene a Coroner’s Inquest.

    Comment by Bill — October 24, 2015 @ 10:30 am

  11. To paraphrase Mark Twain; “If you don’t read the newspaper[KCSO initial investigation report], you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper [KCSO initial investigation report], you’re misinformed.”
    Today, the Press reported: “An initial investigation by the KCSO after the incident revealed that alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the death. However, reports in the community began to swirl that alcohol was indeed involved. The coroner’s findings confirms [sic] those reports.”
    When the facts are finally revealed about the accident, hopefully the whys and wherefores about what was apparently a shoddy investigation will also be revealed.

    Comment by Tributary — October 24, 2015 @ 11:45 am

  12. Tributary,

    I just put up my second post on this subject. It’s based on exactly the same paragraph you picked up on.

    Comment by Bill — October 24, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

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