An Ohio grand jury has decided not to bring criminal charges against the two Cleveland police officers involved in last year's fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Rice, who was black, was playing with a pellet gun when he was shot by white Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann. Video evidence shows that neither Loehmann nor Frank Garmback, the other officer present, moved to provide first aid to Rice while he lay dying.
According to Cleveland.com:
Monday's decision comes more than 13 months after the shooting, one that catapulted Cleveland into the national debate about police use of force.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, whose oversight of the grand jury process drew criticism, called the shooting "a perfect storm of errors" while announcing the grand jury's decision at a press conference.
Monday's decision comes in spite of the fact that in June, a judge in Cleveland found probable cause that Loehmann should face murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty charges in the shooting death of Rice last November. The judge also ruled that probable cause exists to charge Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
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A group of clergy and activists known as the 'Cleveland 8' in July issued a video and open letter lambasting the grand jury process. It read in part:
When the prosecutor uses the grand jury as a body to determine probable cause for charging and indicting, it is problematic in two ways: (1) It gives police officers the opportunity to provide exculpatory (exonerating) testimony without cross examination, as took place in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island. This approach suggests a 'secret trial' out of public view, which, while serving the interests of the officers, does not serve the interests of justice. (2) The idea that rules of the grand jury can be altered at will depending on who is suspected of committing a crime is itself unconstitutional and discriminatory against every other individual subject to the grand jury but without the apparent entitlements that come with wearing a badge.
Attorneys for the Rice family reiterated some of these criticisms in a statement released Monday, saying they were "saddened and disappointed by this outcome—but not surprised."
"It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," the attorneys said. "Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified."
"Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination," the statement continued. "Even though it is black letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects."
The family's attorneys said they are renewing their request that the Department of Justice "step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting."