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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tamir Rice Family Calls on Feds to Intervene

CLEVELAND (CN) - Saying county officials have bungled the investigation into the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, attorneys for the Rice family asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to intervene.

"We recognize that a request for federal intervention should be made only under exceptional circumstances, but such circumstances exist here," the nine-page letter signed by Jonathan Abady with Emery Celli states. "For many months, we have witnessed a series of anomalies and biased practices by the local prosecutor suggesting that the investigation into this tragic shooting was not being conducted in a fair and impartial manner."

Rice had been playing alone with a toy gun in a park on Nov. 22, 2014, when he was shot.

Outrage spread as surveillance footage showed it took less than 2 seconds for Officer Frank Garmback to careen a squad car to a stop in front of the boy and for his partner, Officer Timothy, Loehmann to get out of the car and shoot Rice.

In statements that they have read to the grand jury investigating Rice's death, the officers said they saw Rice reaching toward his waistband for the gun. They offered no explanation, however, as to why they did not administer first aid to the child.

Rice died early the next morning at a hospital.

The grand jury process led by Cuyahoga County District Attorney Timothy McGinty has been a contentious one with Abady claiming that McGinty is biased toward the police, and McGinty claiming that the family's attorneys is after a big pay day.

As the investigation has been ongoing, Cleveland settled charges the U.S. government brought after blasting the city for its "troubling patterns" of excessive and deadly force.

Abady hearkened to this settlement in his Monday letter to U.S. Attorney General Lynch, copying the federal prosecutor in Cleveland, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, on the letter.

"Whether or not the officers here are ultimately convicted, and regardless of the specific charges levied, there is no question that the proper administration of justice requires presentation of evidence to the grand jury in an unbiased and fair manner," Abady wrote. "It is now clear, however, that this has not and is not happening in this supremely important case."

Independent experts whom the Rice family retained for the investigation both reported "hostile, unprofessional, and unfair questioning" when they testified last week to the grand jury, according to the letter.

Abady says one of the prosecutors even "pulled a toy gun out of his pants and stuck it in" one of the expert's faces while he was testifying, "demanding whether that was sufficient threat for an officer to use deadly force."

"Of course, in addition to being highly improper, this demonstration was also highly misleading to the grand jurors: no one claims - and the video conclusively refutes - that Tamir was pointing a gun at the officer's face," the letter states.

Also in the proceedings, one of the prosecutors "took a seat amongst the grand jurors and openly smirked" as one of the Rice family's experts answered questions.

Abady calls the questioning "a crowning act of prosecutorial misconduct."

"It is clear what is taking place in this case: local prosecutors have been on a year-long mission to exculpate these officers and shield them from exposure to criminal liability, no matter what the evidence shows," the letter states.

Making the "de facto sabotage of the family's experts through improper cross-examination" more egregious, Abady notes that local prosecutors let the officers avoid facing cross-examination after reading their prepared statements.

"No objective observer looking at what is taking place here could conclude anything other than that this process has been corrupted and is unfair," Abady wrote.

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