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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tamir Rice Family Push for Grand Jury Secrecy

CLEVELAND (CN) - Fueling claims that bias has tainted efforts to prosecute police for killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice, attorneys for the mother alleged violations of an Ohio law on grand jury secrecy.

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. Dash-cam footage shows that the officers began firing less than two seconds after exiting their vehicle.

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.

Attorneys for the Rice case meanwhile have released three letters complaining about McGinty's handling of the case.

In the latest letter sent Monday, Jonathan Abady of the Manhattan firm Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady voiced "profound disappointment" with McGinty's approach.

The five-page letter newly speculates that McGinty has violated rule 6(E) of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure, which states that "Deliberations of the grand jury ... shall not be disclosed." That provision also provides that a "prosecuting attorney ... may disclose matters occurring before the grand jury ... only when so directed by the court."

There is also the matter of Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6(a), which reads: "A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter."

Each of the reports McGinty released either have or will be presented to the grand jury in the Rice investigation. While one report is a technical reconstruction, the other three all evaluate the use of deadly force and find that the police officers' conduct was "objectively reasonable" and constitutional.

Though McGinty has purported to release the findings in the name of transparency, Abady said in the latest letter that the prosecutor's conduct demonstrates "a naked and unconscionable bias in favor of police officers who are responsible for the death of a 12-year-old boy."

"If you had decided not to present the case to the grand jury because you did not think there was sufficient evidence of a crime, we would have been disappointed by your decision but we would have respected your candor," Abady wrote. "Instead, you have taken the duplicitous approach of pretending to present the case to the grand jury, while simultaneously commissioning these exonerating 'expert' reports that we would have expected from the officers' defense attorneys, not from an impartial prosecutor."

Ken Katsaris, the former Florida police officer who prepared the fourth report , is not a credible expert witness, Abady says, since multiple courts throughout the country have rejected him.

The letter says a federal judge in Kansas disqualified Katsaris because he offered legal conclusions that would "usurp the jury's role and because he sought to testify on matters outside his field of expertise."

Meanwhile in Florida, a federal judge criticized Katsaris' opinion as "rife" with improper "conclusory statements" and "legal conclusions," according to the letter.

Rice's attorneys say speculation about what Loehmann and Garmback might have seen or believed guided Katsaris, and that is report "rubber stamps" their blatantly improper tactics, like stopping their patrol car directly in front of Rice instead of parking at a safe distance and properly assessing the situation.

Abady and the other attorneys representing Samaria Rice, her daughter, T.R., and the Estate of Tamir Rice concluded their letter by renewing their call for McGinty to recuse himself from the investigation to let an independent special prosecutor take over.

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