The Cleveland grand jury that declined to charge two police officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice never actually took a vote on whether or not to bring charges, according to a published report.
An investigation by the alternative newsweekly Cleveland Scene opens major, if not confounding, questions of how the decision not to go forward with charges was reached.
On Dec. 28, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced that the two officers, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback would not stand trial in the death of the boy, who was shot to death in November 2014 when the officers’ patrol vehicle drove up to him after receiving a report of someone in a park with a firearm – which turned out to be a toy.
McGinty said the grand jury had “declined to indict” the officers. But the public assumption was that a “no bill” had been voted on, in other words the grand jury had decided not to bring charges. If they had, a “true bill” would have been their vote.
However, reporters from Cleveland Scene requested documentation of the “no bill” and were never given anything by the prosecutor’s office. They were told that such a record did not exist. A spokesman for the office told reporters that the record was non-existent because nothing had ever been voted on.
“This was an investigative grand jury. This was kind of their role. Sometimes, a grand jury, after its investigation, will decide if there are no votes to be taken on charges,” Joe Frolik, Cuyahoga County prosecutors office communications director told Cleveland Scene.
But that still leaves it unclear how a decision against indicting materialized and why the grand jury produced neither a “true bill” or a “no bill.”
“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,” Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University explained to the newspaper. “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."
What will happen with the Tamir Rice case is uncertain. A federal investigation into the case has been launched and the boy’s family has sued Loehmann and Garmback for wrongful death.
Still, Cuyahoga County Common Please Court Administrative and Presiding Judge Andrew J. Russo told reporters that he intended to find out from Judge Nancy McDonnell, who presided over the grand jury, exactly what was filed.
"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,” said Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra, “that the prosecutor didn't even think it mattered to bring the grand jury proceedings to their proper conclusion."
Read the full story at Clevescene.com.