WAGNER, S.D. (AP) — A county prosecutor won’t handle the case of a South Dakota man whose family and tribe have accused police of excessive force after a weekend pursuit because the man serves as an expert witness for the county.
State’s Attorney Steve Cotton won’t decide whether to charge Raymond Cournoyer Sr., 64, because Cournoyer is an expert witness on family law and tribal matters. The case will be transferred from Charles Mix County to another county that is currently undecided, the Argus Leader reported .
“In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, we’re going to transfer it over to another office,” Cotton said.
Police said Cournoyer was speeding to a nursing home to see his dying mother Sunday when he didn’t pull over for a Highway Patrol trooper and an uncertified Wagner officer. Once he made it to the Good Samaritan Center, Cournoyer alleged he told officers in the parking lot he needed to see his mother. He was then held down, shocked with a Taser by the Wagner officer and treated in a hospital. Cournoyer didn’t see his mother.
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Cournoyer’s daughter created a Facebook post Sunday that includes graphic photos of his injuries. The post has since been shared nearly 9,000 times and resulted in an inquiry by the state Division of Criminal Investigation as well as strong criticism from the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s elected officials.
The Highway Patrol has defended the trooper’s actions. The Wagner Police Department requested a state review, which is ongoing.
Cournoyer served as the coordinator for the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s Indian Child Welfare Act for several years. He now testifies for Cotton’s office in cases involving the welfare act, which is a federal law outlining the rules for handling Native American children removed from their homes.
“Because he’s knowledgeable about child rearing and tribal culture, he’s a great expert witness for us,” Cotton said.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com