Tamir Rice Case: Prosecutor Abused, Manipulated Grand Jury Process, Family Attorneys Say

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Attorneys for the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice say the local Ohio prosecutor abused and manipulated the Grand Jury process after Tamir was shot dead by a Cleveland cop.

"It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," the attorneys said in a statement this afternoon, after McGinty said that a Grand Jury won't indict officer Timothy Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, in connection with Tamir's death.

McGinty said he also recommended that no charges be filed against the officers. After the Grand Jury "heard all the evidence and the applicable law, they were told our recommendation," the prosecutor's office said. "But they made the final decision."

The family of Tamir -- who was holding a toy gun when he was shot by Loehmann at a Cleveland playground in November 2014 -- was "disappointed" by today's outcome but not "surprised," the attorneys said.

"Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified," the attorneys charged. "It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire 'experts' to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation."

"Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination," the attorneys said. "The prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects."

In a statement released Monday night, Rice's family echoed their lawyers' sentiments.

"Prosecutor McGinty deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers' defense attorney," the statement said.

"As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. But this entire process was a charade."

The prosecutor's office said in response that it believes its "extensive work on this case speaks for itself," referring ABC News to the 70-page report the office released today on the case.

The family's attorneys said they are renewing their request for the Department of Justice to "step in to conduct a real investigation."

Loehmann "had reason to fear for his life," McGinty told reporters, citing video of Tamir reaching for his gun as the police car approached and Loehmann exited. McGinty said the officers believed Tamir's gun was real and noted that the orange tip was missing from the gun, which would have been a clear indication that the gun was fake.

McGinty called Tamir's death a "tragedy" but not a crime, adding that charges against the officers wouldn't bring justice for Tamir.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said today that "this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served."

"We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us," he said. "We have made progress to improve the way communities and police work together in our state, and we're beginning to see a path to positive change so everyone shares in the safety and success they deserve. When we are strong enough together to turn frustration into progress we take another step up the higher path."

The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association said in a statement, "While we will always have the utmost respect for the Criminal Justice system, we are pleased in the Grand Jury's thoughtful decision."

"From the onset, our hearts, thoughts and prayers have gone out to the Rice family as well as our involved officers and their families," said the association.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio said it will continue its independent review of the case to "determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws."

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