Angry protests broke out around the country when a grand jury failed to indict the police officer who shot twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland Park, for the crime of playing with a toy gun. New revelations reveal that not only did the grand jury fail to indict the officer, they failed to vote on it at all.
“The grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. [Loehmann] had reason to fear for his life. It would be unreasonable if the law required an officer to wait and see if a gun was real” said Prosecutor Timothy McGinty at the conclusion of can only be loosely called a “trial.”
There are all sorts of reasons this is inexcusable. Video footage shows the officer exiting his vehicle and opening fire within seconds. The accessory who called in the tip told the police several times that “it’s probably fake.” In a very revealing admission, the police asked the called multiple times whether or not the boy was black or white. There is certainly a racial element at play here, and there is absolutely no reason to assume that a child in a park is a threat.
But the fact that the jury never even voted on whether or not to press charges. A grand jury trial usually ends in a “true bill,” resulting in charges, or a “no bill,” which is a decision to not bring charges. Documents for either are kept on record. However, when the Cleveland Scene demanded to see the official record, they were informed that it doesn’t exist. Employees at both the clerk’s and prosecutor’s offices had no answers.
Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State held that there was something very suspicious at work:
“If there was no vote on a bill in this case, the prosecutor might have influenced that —- he might have said there’s no reason to even vote because we all agree, or something — but it’s still the grand jury’s decision. It ultimately has the power to consider the facts as they’re aware of. Because of grand jury secrecy rules, though, we can’t know what happened inside that room.”
Tamir’s family is understandably even more furious at what still appears to be a colossal miscarriage of justice. “If it is true that the prosecutor didn’t even call for an up or down vote on potential criminal charges, including aggravated murder, then it is truly the ultimate insult to the Rice family, that the prosecutor didn’t even think it mattered to bring the grand jury proceedings to their proper conclusion” said attorney Subodh Chandra.
If this is the way that officer shootings are being investigated in America, then there is something inherently wrong with our justice system. Not even bothering to go through the proper motions of establishing culpability in the cold-blooded murder of a twelve-year old is a disgrace to Lady Justice and the rule of law that we hold dear in our nation.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.