‘Evil misuse of the grand jury process’: Tamir Rice family lawyer blasts report defending cops
On Monday, the reports by two independent experts concluded that Cleveland police officers acted within reason because Rice, who was holding a toy gun, was perceived as “a serious threat.”
“First you have to suspend all disbelief that they actually sided with the prosecutor’s office, being their pro-prosecutorial stature and positions,” Rice family attorney Walter Madison told RT on Monday. “The thing that jumps off the page of both reports is how much they gloss over the fact that these officers created the danger.”
“It is just unworkable and unreasonable to understand or believe that they create this precipitous event but then scream the magic words, ‘I feared for my life,’ therefore this is a reasonable killing of a 12-year-old African-American child.”
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office asked for the independent reviews ahead of a grand jury trial which will try to determine whether police officer Timothy Loehmann lawfully shot Rice in November 2014, and also whether to indict or not police officer Frank Garmback. The reports, drafted by a retired FBI agent and a prosecutor from Denver, Colorado, both concluded that the police officer, who is white, used reasonable force in shooting Rice.
"We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports," Prosecutor Timothy J McGinty said in a statement, as cited by the Associated Press. "The gathering of evidence continues, and the grand jury will evaluate it all."
Madison told RT that the prosecutor hired experts at the taxpayers’ expense so that they can “make opinion early to soften the blow.”
“What he should be doing, as in any other grand jury, he should be looking to answer a simple question: ‘Is there probable cause that a crime has occurred?’ That’s it,” he said.
“The grand jury’s function is not to exonerate or exculpate any individual. When you go off and seek expert opinion – and all of this is occurring without anyone there and behind the door, in secrecy – it’s problematic. It really underscores why he [McGinty] shouldn’t be in charge of the investigation in the first place. All of these concerns, or the perception by the public, that this is not going to be a fair outcome, would be alleviated if there were just an independent prosecutor from the start. ”
On November 22, 2014, the Cleveland Police Department received reports concerning a male with a gun at a playground. A cruiser with Officers Loehmann and Garmback arrived on the scene shortly after. Police said Loehmann engaged when Rice reached into his waistband, and that officers did not realize that he was carrying a toy weapon. Loehmann fired two shots at Rice, which struck him in the abdomen, and the boy subsequently died from his wounds in hospital the following day.
The Rice family has criticized the reports, saying the police are trying to “whitewash” the killing of Tamir, and that the prosecutor who ordered them is “avoiding accountability.”
Tamir Rice Case: Family lawyer blasts reports saying cop's shooting of boy, 12, with pellet gun was justified: http://t.co/EUSYqNsg39— The Associated Press (@AP) October 11, 2015
Madison said the reports are missing important details
“First of all it, talks about a reasonable officer. That’s an assumption. We haven’t heard anything from either of these officers as to what they thought or believed,” Madison said. “[McGinty’s] function at the grand jury is to answer any and all questions a grand juror may have. But when you are controlling the information or the legal issue from which they may formulate a question, it is not hard to tell how that’s going to turn out.”
“This is just a subversive, evil use, or misuse, of the grand jury process,” he added.
Rice’s death came only two days after a grand jury in St. Louis County decided not to indict Darren Wilson, at the time an officer with the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri, over an August 2014 incident in which he fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.
Madison was asked by RT how the family was taking the release of the reports and the ongoing investigation 11 months after the death of Rice.
“It crushes them. The most personal attack or violation, they [the police] murdered their 12-year-old son, grandson, loved one, cousin, brother. He’s dead. And he’ll never come home,” Madison said. “And I think that’s the gravity in the situation that gets lost in all the legal talk and the legal maneuvering. A 12-year-old child is dead.”
A Cuyahoga County judge in June found probable cause for murder charges, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty against Loehmann, who shot Rice. He found there was probable cause to charge his partner Garmback, who was driving the patrol car, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
But Judge Ronald Adrine did not find cause to charge either man with aggravated murder. He cautioned that his role was “advisory in nature” and that it is up to the “discretion of the City’s prosecuting authority” to file any and all charges, according to WEWS.