Following the grand jury’s return of no true bill in Ferguson, Missouri, cries rang out that this proved Police Officer Darren Wilson was innocent of murdering Michael Brown. This was ignorance at its worst. It’s not that it proved the opposite. It didn’t. But it also didn’t prove that Wilson didn’t commit murder, because the proceeding was a sham. As was the grand jury proceeding in the murder of Eric Garner.
Had St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, and Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan, wanted indictments, they would have gotten them within hours of the murders. They didn’t, and used the grand jury as cover to conceal their goal, to create the appearance of exoneration of cops in a manner that would deflect responsibility from them while appeasing the public’s desire for some sort of law-ish justification. They played off the public’s utter stupidity and ignorance of the grand jury process and got away with it.
against about Timothy Loehmann, the cop who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice, is in the process of being presented to a Cuyahoga County grand jury under the auspices of District Attorney Tim McGinty. For all the public pretense of how he’s trying to be thorough and fair, because the public has no clue that a presentment to the grand jury isn’t a trial, isn’t meant to be fair, but only to show whether enough one-sided evidence exists to get to trial where fairness is supposed to happen, people eat up this rhetoric.
Lawyers for the Rice family see what’s coming, and they’re trying to prevent the inevitable outcome of people embracing the certainty that the grand jury’s return of no true bill in Loehmann’s case shows that this unfortunate murder just couldn’t be helped, and that once again, the police are being scapegoated for something no reasonable cop could prevent.
Lawyers for the family of Tamir Rice on Tuesday asked the U.S. Justice Department to launch an independent investigation into the boy’s 2014 killing by a Cleveland police officer.
A series of “anomalies and biased practices” by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s office was punctuated last week when prosecutors presenting the case to a grand jury smirked, mocked and pointed a toy gun in the face of two police experts the Rice family hired, attorneys Jeff Abady, Earl Ward and Zoe Salzman wrote in the letter made public Tuesday morning.
While grand jury proceedings are putatively secret, the family’s expert spilled the beans, and the lawyers’ letter spells out in detail what happened behind closed doors.
That they have sent this to the DoJ is troubling, as it’s not like the feds are any less sympathetic to their own agents doing the dirty, but they have no one else to go to. It may well be that they just want to get this information out to the public, ahead of the curve. After the grand jury refuses to indict, it will get buried in the cries that this proves Loehmann did nothing wrong when it proves nothing of the sort.
For the unwary, this is not how the grand jury is supposed to work. Not at all. Not even close. The decision to present a case to a grand jury belongs exclusively to the prosecution, and by presenting the case, they tacitly assert that they believe an indictment to be proper. So, they present the evidence that supports their belief. If they do not believe the target of the grand jury to have committed the crime for which they seek an indictment, the duty is to not present the case and take the responsibility for their decision.
McGinty doesn’t want an indictment. McGinty is too much of a coward to take the responsibility of his office to say so, and instead is engaging in a grand jury charade to soothe the public’s anger about the murder of Tamir Rice while assuring the desired outcome. And as this description of what happened in the grand jury shows, the prosecution is making damn sure that there will be no indictment.
This shouldn’t happen. Prosecutors do not attack, ridicule, smirk at and mock their own witnesses, except when they are doing everything possible to guarantee the result of no true bill. And they are doing this solely to pretend, after the grand jury refuses to indict, that they’ve been fabulously fair. It’s a lie. The difference this time is that we know of the lie before the outcome. We’ve got the details in hand.
This is a travesty, a farce, a joke, and yet it allows McGinty to call a press conference to extol what a wonderfully fair guy he is and how he has no choice but to respect the grand jury’s decision. A decision that he did everything humanly possible to guarantee would result.
Had McGinty played it straight, assuming he was willing to suffer the outside potential of an indictment of former Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, there remains a near-certainty that the grand jury would still return no true bill. The law is so ridiculously favorable to a cop as to make the outcome a near-fait accompli. But McGinty, clearly, isn’t taking any chances.
When the Cuyahoga grand jury returns no true bill in the murder of Tamir Rice, there should be absolutely no surprise. It will be exactly what McGinty intended to accomplish from the outset, and just as a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, so too can he guarantee that no indictment is returned. And McGinty, too cowardly to just announce that he has no intention of trying a murder case against Loehmann, is doing everything possible to make sure that his desired outcome is achieved.
The difference this time, as opposed to Micheal Brown and Eric Garner, is that the Rice family lawyers know, with certainty, what will come of this grand jury presentment, and are doing what they can to reveal it before it happens. Whether the feds will take it up, or give a damn, remains to be seen, but at the very least, the public should be aware that this is nothing more than a sham, a charade, a show put on for its benefit. And that’s all it is.
When no indictment is returned, it doesn’t mean that Loehmann committed no crime, but that McGinty achieved the result he desired. Prosecutors almost always get what they want from a grand jury, whether it’s an indictment or no true bill. The only question is how long the public will indulge in its willful ignorance of this reality.