Tazewell County State’s Attorney: Body camera footage release makes my job harder

TAZEWELL COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) – The Tazewell County State’s Attorney says body camera footage of a fatal alcohol-related crash that killed two people in East Peoria was causing harm head for his investigation.

Bodycam footage released by East Peoria Police shows the officer’s interactions with Stephanie Melgoza, 23, following the fatal April 10 crash at the hospital. Melgoza was arrested for aggravated impaired driving causing death (two counts), aggravated reckless driving (two counts), possession of cannabis and illegal transportation of alcohol.

WMBD found it unusual that body camera footage was released prior to Melgoza’s May 24 arraignment, so we made inquiries with Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stu Umholtz.

“We are trying to encourage law enforcement and others to be wary of releasing information. Unfortunately, we struggle to understand what people have a right to know and what the press may have a right to know. But then the decisions have to be made by the media as to what they’re actually going to air,” he said.

Umholtz said pretrial publicity can impact their ability to select a jury.

“It makes it difficult to select a jury if the individual has already seen the evidence, because we need jurors who would make decisions based on the evidence admitted into the courtroom,” he explained.

Umholtz said that could force them to move the case to another jurisdiction, making it more expensive and complicated. Pre-trial publicity also taints the presumption of innocence of the individual.

“We are also concerned about pre-trial publicity, in that it will make it more difficult for an individual to have a fair trial. Our intention is that a person should be tried in a public courtroom and not in the media… just because the information would be provided to the press does not mean that the press should release it,” he said. he declares.

He said the Melgoza case was under investigation and declined to comment further.

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