CLEVELAND (CN) - On the heels of a new report justifying the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year, Rice's family said the need for an independent prosecutor is clear.
"Unfortunately, it is now abundantly clear that a fair, impartial and appropriate presentation to the grand jury is not in process," Jonathan Abady, an attorney for the Rice family, said in a statement Thursday night.
Grand jury proceedings have been ongoing in Cuyahoga County since police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback shot Rice to death on Nov. 22, 2014, while the boy was playing alone in a park with a toy gun.
Citing the "higher level of public scrutiny" warranted in cases that look at police use of deadly force, prosecutor Tim McGinty has to date released four expert reports on the shooting.
As with earlier reports, the report by police consultant W. Ken Katsaris released Thursday describes the officers' conduct as "objectively reasonable."
Shortly after Rice's family complained about his release of the earlier reports, McGinty brushed off the bias claims in an interview with a local television reporter.
"Well isn't that interesting," McGinty said, as quoted by WKYC. "They waited until they didn't like the reports they received. They're, they're very interesting people. Let me just leave it at that. And they have their own economic motives."
The Rice family's attorney fired back with a letter on Nov. 9, saying McGinty's comments "illustrate a disturbing lack of professionalism and impartiality."
"This conduct provides further evidence that the grand jury process is being seriously compromised and that your office must recuse itself and have an independent prosecutor appointed to ensure the fair administration of justice," Abady of the Manhattan firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady wrote.
Shortly before McGinty's office released the new Katsaris report, several Cleveland clergy members held a rally Thursday afternoon to condemn McGinty's statements.
Reciting a number of factors that they say have eroded public trust in McGinty's ability to lead the Rice investigation, the clergy members noted the unusual length of the investigation and the release of the expert reports favorable to the police.
Though the county prosecutor has shared the reports favorable to police on his website, there is no mention there of an opinion Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine issued, in a response to a motion by activists, finding probable cause to arrest officers Loehmann and Garmback.
The clergy members, organized by the Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, read a letter they were sending McGinty.
"Recent comments that the Rice family's motivations are economic in nature are reprehensible and further add to the growing sentiment that the manner in which the Rice case has proceeded is tainted with bias at the worst, and poorly handled at the minimum," the letter states. "It is our firm conclusion that no further action taken by your office related to this case will restore confidence to a significant amount of the public that this matter will come to a fair and just conclusion."
Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple said he is asked about the Rice investigation on a daily basis. The rabbi said McGinty's conduct has undercut his encouragement for the community to be patient, to speak thoughtfully and to watch carefully as justice proceeds forward.
"Over these last few months, I have lost confidence in the prosecutor's independence of mind and judgment in this case," Nosanchuk said. "Something has gotten under Prosecutor McGinty's skin in this case."
The Rev. Dr. Ken Chalker of the University Circle United Methodist Church then spoke about the need for a change. "The process we have allows the Greater Cleveland community to have fuel for their stereotypes, their bigotries, their fears of our neighborhoods, the fears of our people," Chalker said. "It reinforces all those kinds of things."
Chalker's voice began to crack as he pleaded: "It is killing our community! It's dividing us. It makes us live farther and farther apart and it reinforces stereotypes that are demeaning and, and cruel."
The Rev. Colvin went on to say that, regardless of the outcome of the case, if McGinty "continues down this road, inevitably, he has created more problems than he has solved."
Katsaris, the expert behind the latest report, testified for the County Prosecutor's Office in the trial of Michael Brelo, a Cleveland police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter for his role in the deaths of two unarmed, black suspects.
Brelo was ultimately acquitted on all charges.
In his statement after the report's release, Abady said "this is a sad day for criminal justice in Ohio."
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has stated that McGinty's comment about "economic motives" referred specifically to Abady's firm, not Rice's mother, Samaria.
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