Members of a criminal defense attorney organization, along with the Brevard County Public Defender are calling for Sheriff Wayne Ivey to release a jail video showing a violent confrontation between Gregory Edwards and corrections deputies, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Edwards died the next day.
Margaret Wagner, a criminal defense attorney and representative of the Brevard chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that lawyers and prosecutors are frequently provided videos of jail interactions and fights as part of public trials and court cases. The group has over 50 members in Brevard.
“We receive video from the county jail all the time, whether it is involving a battery or a detainee fighting with a law enforcement agent. There’s really nothing stopping the sheriff from releasing the video,” Wagner told Florida Today. The sheriff has claimed, based on the agency’s reading of state law, that the five-minute video is exempted from public records release because it involves showing the jail’s security systems.
“They send us video in the regular course of discovery. We get it from all over the jail, the medical area, booking. We find the sheriff’s explanation slightly strange and potentially disingenuous. It just seems that the only reason (the sheriff) is objecting to its release is that it is Gregory Edwards,” Wagner said.
Edwards, a 38-year-old combat veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder episodes, died the day after the Dec. 9 incident at the Brevard County Jail Complex in Sharpes.
Sheriff Ivey said during a press conference that Edwards fought like a 'caged animal' with corrections deputies on the day he was brought to the jail. The sheriff's own investigation concluded Edwards was shot with a stun gun multiple times, kneed, struck in the head, sprayed with a chemical agent, then covered with a spit mask and strapped into a restraint chair before being left alone.
The state attorney cleared corrections deputies of any criminal wrongdoing last July. Sheriff Ivey moved however to keep the video out of the public eye, despite the case being closed. Ivey, however, does have the discretion to make it public, according to the state attorney's office.
The case has gotten renewed attention following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer.
There have been massive demonstrations and violent confrontations across the nation amid calls for criminal justice reform and a review of police tactics and other cases involving suspected police brutality in the wake of Floyd's death.
Last week, Edwards’ widow Kathleen, speaking at a town hall following a justice march that drew 3,000 to 4,000 people to Cocoa, said that she wanted to view the video to see what happened to her husband. She is also asking for an independent investigation.
The lawyer’s association also wrote in a three-page letter to the sheriff and other Space Coast police chiefs that Ivey “must implement reforms” to improve transparency and accountability for the county’s largest law enforcement agency.
Public Defender Blaise Trettis, whose taxpayer-funded office also handles such videos through the discovery process, also weighed in on the growing controversy.
“It should be released. Faces could be blurred out if that is a concern,” Trettis said to Florida Today.
“Personally, I would like a more thorough explanation of the exception. Disclosure is a lot more beneficial...there should be disclosure,” Trettis said.