Grand juries have the power to indict people on criminal charges, so it is no laughing matter when they fail to take a vote on the charges at hand.
That, after all, is the whole point of a grand jury.
But in a huge lapse of justice, the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case failed to vote on the charges against Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
Yet even without a vote, the officers walked away free without an indictment.
Rice was the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed for carrying a pellet gun in an incident captured on surveillance video.
Loehmann, a cop with a history of emotional instability, shot him within a second, later claiming the boy had refused orders to drop the gun.
Ohio is an open carry state.
This failure in the justice system where the grand jury did not even vote was encouraged by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the lead prosecutor Timothy McGinty where he simply recommended to the grand jury not to file charges against the two officers.
“After the grand jury heard all the evidence and the applicable law, they were told our recommendation. Tamir’s death was a tragedy but not a crime. The evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police. But they made the final decision,” the prosecutor’s office said last month after the decision was announced.
In normal grand jury proceedings, the jury votes on whether to indict or not. A “no bill” is legal jargon for when a grand jury votes to not indict. Conversely, a “true bill” is when a grand jury votes to indict.
That’s what juries do. They deliberate and they vote. That’s the whole point as farcical as it may seem.
But get this, neither a “no bill” nor a “true bill” was submitted with the grand jury’s decision in the Tamir Rice case because the grand jury never voted, period.
No wonder the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office refused to release the grand jury documents after the decision was announced.
Joe Frolik, the communications director for the Prosecutor’s Office, said, “It’s technically not a no-bill, because they didn’t vote on charges.”
There still is no official word as to why the vote didn’t happen. Or why they even maintained the facade of the grand jury if they never intended to let it vote.
Unless, of course, it was to shift the blame to not indict from the prosecutor’s office to the mysterious grand jury.
Attorney Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer for the Rice family issued the following statement:
“The report that no vote was ever taken by the grand jury is stunning. It is yet another example of the disturbing and troubling way the grand jury process has been handled by the local prosecutor. We were assured throughout this process that a recommendation regarding criminal charges would be made and that a vote would be taken by the grand jury.
We now hear that no such vote was ever taken. This is only the most recent example of anomaly, distortion, and corruption of the grand jury process and is further evidence of the need for federal intervention by the Department of Justice. This is a case of immense importance to the nation and no one can have confidence in the administration of justice if these kinds of practices are permitted.”
The Rice family has filed a wrongful death suit against Loehmann, Garmback, and the Cleveland Police Department, the latter who said they did not bother doing a background search on Loehmann before hiring him, which would have showed them he had been fired from another agency because he proved to have “dismal” handgun performance and was emotionally unstable.