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Judge: Records in Black inmate’s death will remain sealed

WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — Records related to the 2019 death of a Black North Carolina jail inmate who was restrained will remain sealed for at least 60 days, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David Hall made the decision following a virtual hearing, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. The documents, which could give insight on John Neville’s death in the Forsyth County jail, were first ordered temporarily sealed in January.
Neville died in December 2019 after having a medical emergency at the jail. Body camera videos from the facility showed Neville struggling with guards to get up from where he lay on the floor, calling out for his mother and yelling “I can’t breathe!” more than 20 times as he was being restrained. Neville had been arrested several days earlier.
Five former detention officers and a nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter in Neville’s death.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. didn’t publicly acknowledge Neville’s death for six months. But last June, prompted by questions from the Winston-Salem Journal, Kimbrough provided limited information about Neville’s death, the news outlet said.
The records included a 723-page report from the State Bureau of Investigation and an internal investigation conducted by the sheriff’s office. The News & Observer of Raleigh initially requested the records from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which had the records as part of an investigation into Neville’s cause of death.
In late January, a DHHS attorney notified Forsyth County prosecutors that the agency would be releasing the documents. The next day, an assistant district attorney filed an objection and Hall issued an order temporarily sealing the documents.
Hall ordered the records released in a hearing last month, concluding that law-enforcement records, which aren’t normally public records, become public when turned over to another public agency such as DHHS. Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dresel filed notice of appeal to the N.C. Court of Appeals and requested that Hall stay his decision.

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