Henry Family Has the Right to See Surveillance Tapes

By Phillip Martin

Mar. 8, 2012

> > Read WGBH's complete coverage of the DJ Henry case and the issues it raises about race and policing.

BOSTON — A federal judge ruled Thursday afternoon that the family of Danroy "DJ" Henry has the right to see surveillance tapes taken on the night of Henry's death. Since October 2010, WGBH has been reporting on the shooting death of the Easton, Massachusetts student. Henry's father said information may be available as early as Friday.

On Oct. 17, 2010, Henry was killed in a hail of bullets fired by police officer Aaron Hess and another officer in Thornwood, N.Y., a village in the town of Mt. Pleasant. Hess said he believed his life was in danger. In the aftermath of the incident, the Westchester Country district attorney's office collected videotapes from various businesses throughout the mall where the shooting took place. The DA’s office, citing the prerogatives of the investigation, declined to share the content with the family or its lawyers even after a grand jury did not criminally indict the two officers involved. 

What is on the videotapes has been a constant question. 

A spokesman for the Westchester County DA’s office said months ago that there is nothing incriminating on the tapes. So why did the office fight to hold on to them? Those questions may now be answered with a ruling on Thursday by a federal judge that the videotapes must now be handed over to the family.

At the hearing, Henry attorney Michael Sussman argued for access during the process of discovery in the civil suit launched by the Henry family. The confidentiality order had prohibited all sides in the civil rights lawsuits from distributing key documents and videos related to the shooting. 

In addition to the videotapes, the lifting of the order means that the family will also have access to 911 calls, police radio transmissions and more than 100 witness statements pertinent to the shooting. Sussman said evidence could be available for public review as soon as Friday. He also said that the evidence would show that “the shooting lacked any possible justification.”

The Henry family is seeking $120 million in damages and more detailed answers from the police department about the circumstances that led to the death of their son. Theirs is one of eight lawsuits filed in this case. On Monday, the family will meet with U.S. Justice Department lawyers to discuss the progress of the federal investigation into the case.

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