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SBI asks Durham DA to set up meeting with Huerta attorney

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DURHAM, N.C. -

The State Bureau of Investigation has reached out to the Durham District Attorney to set up a meeting with the attorney for the family of a teen killed while in police custody, North Carolina Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle Talley said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, attorney Alex Charns, who represents the family of Jesus Huerta, issued a statement asking the SBI to digitally record follow-up interviews after the family presented evidence to the agent in charge of the investigation.

During the course of their investigation into Huerta's death in the backseat of a Durham Police cruiser in November, SBI agents met with family members in person and spoke with them by telephone on a number of occasions, the SBI said last week.

"At the initial meeting with the Huerta family, agents explained that the SBI's role in the case was to gather evidence to help determine whether or not Officer Samuel Duncan was criminally liable for Mr. Huerta's death and that the investigation would be turned over to the District Attorney who would decide whether criminal charges were warranted," SBI said in a statement.

However the SBI's statement conflicts with what Charns previously said when the family questioned "who the SBI talked to, who they failed to talk to and who they have historically served."

The SBI said it welcomed a meeting between its agents and the Huerta family, but Charns said Tuesday that they had "heard nothing from the SBI about their offer to meet."

"We sent evidence directly to the SBI special agent in charge this afternoon," Charns said. "This will allow the SBI to follow-up on the additional investigative area that we identified. This evidence was presented last week to the Office of the District Attorney."

Talley said Wednesday that the SBI has since "reached out to the Durham District Attorney to set up a meeting with the DA and the Huerta family's attorney to discuss new information shared by the family with the SBI late yesterday."

Charns said the family is requesting the SBI use digital recording devices to document any additional interviews as opposed to using hand-written notes, which he said is common when agents interview witnesses.

He said the notes "are typed up in transcript form, though they are not transcripts."

"Instead, these notes contain some quotes and paraphrasing of the witness statements. This technique prevents prosecutors and anyone reviewing it to know how the interview was actually conducted," Charns said.

Charns said the SBI could record the witnesses' consent to the interview as well as the entire session. This digital documentation would allow the court system to access what actually occurred during the interview.

"To rely on note-taking alone is inexact and denies the court, prosecutors and all other interested persons in the judicial system access to the record of what actually occurred," Charns said.

Citing a lack of "criminal probable cause," Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback announced last week that no charges would be filed in the case involving Huerta's death.

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