Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tamir Rice's Preordained "No True Bill"

With the Christmas season upon us, I missed a few things, but it was no surprise when I learned yesterday that Tamir Rice's killer in a blue uniform had a "no true bill" delivered (i.e. insufficient evidence to prosecute on murder charges) against Timothy Loehmann. Scott Greenfield had already predicted this outcome back on December 16, when the presentment was sent to the grand jury:
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.
Which is to say, it was exactly the same sort of dog-and-pony show the district attorneys in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases trotted out as a legal Potemkin village substituting for real adversarial proceedings. There were signs Timothy Loehmann was incompetent to begin with: he had effectively been fired (he quit, in fact, but circumstances suggest he was pushed out) from the Independence, Ohio police force:
After five months on the job, Loehmann quit the police force of the Cleveland suburb of Independence, Ohio, in December 2012, days after a deputy police chief recommended his dismissal. The deputy police chief based his recommendation on a firearms instructor’s report, obtained by NBC News, that Loehmann was experiencing an “emotional meltdown” that made his facility with a handgun “dismal.”

“They put a police officer in this situation who had a history of mental health problems,” said Michael Benza, a criminal law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “It may not have been ‘reasonable’ for him to shoot given his mental issues.”
Or it may not have been reasonable that the Cleveland PD should have ever hired him.  Claims of menace backed up his preordained exoneration, eagerly accepted by juries grand and petit, not to mention police:
In one experiment, a group of 60 police officers from a large urban police force were asked to assess the age of white, black and Latino children based on photographs. The officers were randomly assigned to be told that the children in the photographs were accused of either a misdemeanor or felony charge. The officers overestimate the age of black felony-suspected children by close to five years, but they actually underestimated the age of white felony-suspected children by nearly a year.
California lately has signed into law a bill forbidding the use of grand juries in police shooting cases, SB 227.  It could be a step in the right direction, depending on how it's implemented; state attorneys at least wouldn't have a grand jury to hide behind, anyway.

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