Police

[*Update: Vote on Justification of Shooting Was Held] Tamir Rice's Grand Jury Never Actually Voted on Charges

No record of a vote exists.

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Tamir Rice

Yet more evidence has emerged that the grand jury proceedings in the Tamir Rice case were farcical. Consider this mystery: While the grand jury ultimately opted not to bring charges against the officers responsible for a 12-year-old's death, its members never actually voted on the matter.

This creates something of a logic puzzle for journalists trying to piece together the outcome. How was it possible for the grand jury to decide against charging the officers without actually, um, deciding?

According to Cleveland Scene, if the grand jury had voted one way or the other, this action would have created a record—either a "true bill" or a "no bill"—that could be reviewed at the county clerk's office. But neither such bill exists:

Though Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty never explicitly said the grand jury voted not to indict — nor did he utter the phrase "no bill" — in his Dec. 28 press conference, he declared that that grand jury had declined to indict. 

How, then, if not by voting? 

After learning and confirming on Jan. 15 that there was no "no-bill notification" on file at the county clerk's office for the Tamir Rice grand jury proceedings, Scene formally requested the document officially showing the decision, however it was reached, and wherever said document might be. We were told that it didn't exist. Employees at both the clerk's and prosecutor's officers were unable to explain the lack of paperwork.

Tuesday, Scene spoke with Joe Frolik, the communications director for the Prosecutor's Office, who said no no-bill record exists because, "it's technically not a no-bill, because they didn't vote on charges."

He elaborated: "This was an investigative grand jury. This was kind of their role. Sometimes, a grand jury, after its investigation, will decide if there are no votes to be taken on charges." 

According to a legal expert consulted by Scene, Prosecutor McGinty wouldn't have been able to stop the grand jury from holding a vote if it really wanted to, but because this grand jury had an investigative role, its members might have decided that a vote was simply unnecessary.

But it's worth scrutinizing whether Rice's grand jury actually fulfilled an investigative role, given that it did not cross-examine Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.

The lack of a vote also raises the question of whether there actually was consensus on Loehmann and Garmback's lack of guilt. Perhaps there were members of the grand jury who would have voted for a different outcome, but failed to speak up at the time the decision was somehow reached not to even have a vote at all.

Certainly, this revelation undermines McGinty's already shaky assertion that the investigation into Rice's death was impartial and independent. How can anyone say a grand jury fairly considered the matter of Loehmann and Garmback's guilt, when they either declined or were never given the opportunity to vote for indictments?

Updated on January 21 at 9:00 a.m.: The Washington Post reports that the grand jury did vote on whether the shooting was justified. Since they determined that it was justified, there was no need for them to vote on individual charges. Such a vote does not generate either a "true bill" or a "no bill." Local officials were confused about whether a no bill existed in this case, and accidentally gave incorrect information to Scene's reporter.

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  1. The Grand Jury made it home safely, that’s all that matters.

    1. They wanted to get home with their tail lights intact.

  2. Having served on a grand jury and been presented with cases that we really don’t get a say in but just to see how a jury would handle it (cases involving minors), we always voted because that is what a grand jury does. The only reason I can see a grand jury not voting is if the DA or presenting attorney had told us not to. I didn’t even know not voting was an option when I served, so I have no doubt the attorney, if they ever presented it, told them specifically not to vote.

    1. They were there hanging out for a while then the DA sent them home. If they wanted to vote, they should have mentioned it.

      1. Usual procedure has the attorney leave the room while the grand jury deliberates and votes, if he stayed the whole time and then dismissed them I don’t see a reason why they would think to say they wanted to vote. It’s just normal people who are presented cases, they aren’t lawyers, so if the attorney just tells them to go home then they do.

        1. Exactly. I was being facetious. Again.

          1. Sorry, it’s hard to tell sometimes.

            1. I know.

    2. In what state did you serve on a grand jury?

        1. No no, what state, like drunk, stoned, asleep at the wheel, ….

          1. He said Texas, that would include all of those.

    3. Wouldn’t they have had to have voted as to whether to not to vote? Of course, there may not be a record of *this*.

      1. And further, would they have not had to vote to see if they were going to vote on voting?

  3. Tamir Rice’s Grand Jury Never Actually Voted on Charges: Why That Makes No Sense

    Sure it made sense, to the Jury members who didn’t want the mafia cops showing up at their house later to break their knees break their door, shoot their dog and tase their grandma.

  4. Quick, look over there at Quentin Tarantino!

  5. What sayeth you, dunphy?

    1. He’s busy working out. How much do you lift?

  6. Without knowing the specifics of Ohio law, which don’t seem to be elucidated in the blog post anyway, there is no reason to expect a vote if there was no bill of indictment.

    A grand jury is not a petit jury. Unless there is some evidence of procedural malfeasance, the lack of a recorded vote would only be relevant if there was a bill of indictment.

    1. Noteworthy: the flip-side, of course, is that another grand jury can issue a bill of indictment later on. Until the statute of limitations runs out (which may not apply to some or all of the relevant charges), any grand jury can re-investigate the case and possibly decide to indict.

    2. I’m no expert on exactly how Grand Juries work, but if they didn’t vote, is it reasonable to say they “declined to indict”. Or is it technically true that they declined to indict?

      1. I don’t know what different it makes. A failure to indict doesn’t establish any kind of precedent, whether it came from a vote or not.

      2. I don’t think it means they declined to indict if they actual did decline to vote. If they didn’t want to indict they would have voted no bill. Not voting is weird as it doesn’t mean anything. If the passed it, it would go to a different grand jury or brought back with the requested evidence or clarification, so no idea what a non vote means.

        1. Right, so if the prosecutor said the jury “declined to indict” that’s certainly a leading statement in my mind that says that they actively made some sort of decision.

          1. I suspect that they “declined to consider indictment.”

            1. They declined to bring up a vote gainsaying the DA’s opinion on the matter. There is so much leading-by-the-nose in this process that I’m surprised the prosecutor could keep straight face when making the “decision” public.

              Could you imagine this going the other way?telling jurors that prosecution thinks the defendant is almost certainly guilty of murder, but they have a right to decide among themselves whether the murderer should go free? Of course, if they’d prefer to see a murderer face justice, all they have to do is walk away…

    3. I don’t know if the Scene addended the article just now or what, but there’s a photocopied paragraph describing policy: apparently, if the prosecutor initially declined to indict, the jurors are responsible for holding a vote to decide whether to overrule him. I’m reading this to mean nobody spoke up to hold a vote, and so the prosecutor’s decision stood.

      1. I don’t know if the Scene addended the article just now or what

        Jeez, I gotta read the blog post and the linked articles?

        1. Well, it seems like a massive source of bias. The DA has been present the whole time, presented all the testimony and evidence, almost certainly built up some rapport with the jurors, and is now saying in effect, “You’ve heard everything we’ve heard, and hey, you’re welcome to decide however you like, but *we* didn’t see anything there. Maybe you feel differently.”

  7. According to the Ohio State Bar Web page:

    “Conclusions made by a grand jury are made known by what it does: a grand jury issues a bill of indictment if it finds probable cause to believe both that a crime has been committed and that the accused person is responsible, or a “no-bill” if it does not find probable cause. The grand jury also may issue a report at the conclusion of its term, in which its members may make recommendations about improving the justice system.”

    This is very interesting.

    1. Hey, I said maybe Al Jazeera was wrong about using this case to bash the grand jury system.

    2. “improving the justice system”

      validate parking?

  8. You know who else didn’t vote on charges?

    1. Pontius Pilate?

    2. The Energizer Bunny?

    3. Joey Crawford?

  9. That’s not cool

    “Zika virus? which health officials in Brazil believe is causing babies to be born with abnormally small heads”

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/…..tcmp=hpbt3

  10. That’s not cool

    “Zika virus? which health officials in Brazil believe is causing babies to be born with abnormally small heads”

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/…..tcmp=hpbt3

    1. I guess there is hope though

    2. “Huma, could you come in here for second. I’ve got a proposal.”

      Now that email found on her server makes sense.

  11. McGinty? As in the Valley of Fear?

    Good grief. Maybe the Baker Street Birthers are correct and Holmes was real.

  12. Hey, check this out, it’s from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s own Web site:

    “After the Prosecutor presents evidence, the Grand Jury decides if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and if there is a reasonable belief as to the identity of the person who committed the crime.

    “If the Grand Jury determines there is probable cause to indict on the requested charges, they will issue a “true-bill.” A true bill is the grand jury’s notation that a criminal charge should go before a jury for trial.

    “If the Grand Jury determines there is not probable cause or that there is not a reasonable belief as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, they will issue a “no-bill.””

  13. And this from January 9 –

    “Grand juries are responsible for choosing to hand down a “true-bill,” which says they collectively agree that there is probable cause for charges, or a “no-bill” if probable cause is not found, [Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court spokesman Darren] Toms said.”

  14. So, did they vote not to vote?

  15. OK, here is the Cuyahoga prosecutor’s office policy statement:”To ensure public confidence in the integrity of the Criminal Justice System, the policy of the County Prosecutor’s Office will be to present the facts of every fatal police shooting and of all other fatal uses of deadly force by law enforcement officers in Cuyahoga County to the Grand Jury for review….

    “At the conclusion of an investigation and Grand Jury presentation, the decision to charge or not charge ultimately rests with the Grand Jury.

    “If at the conclusion of the Grand Jury presentation, the County Prosecutor’s Office does not believe there is sufficient evidence to charge the police officer or officers with a crime or believes that the use of deadly force was justifiable by law or necessary by duty, the Grand Jury is informed that it has the final say. *If they disagree* [emphasis added] with the assessment of the County Prosecutor’s Office, Grand Jurors can ask for a true bill-no bill opportunity or they can ask to hear additional witnesses and evidence.”

    So it seems that if the prosecutor recommends against an indictment, the grand jury doesn’t *have* to vote.

    Which would be the same outcome as if the prosecutor decided the shooting was justified and didn’t have a grand jury hearing at all.

    1. So apparently the prosecution decided they didn’t want an indictment, but they put the evidence before a grand jury anyway and the grand jury went along with what the prosecution wanted.

      This isn’t an argument against the grand jury. It wasn’t as if the prosecution asked for an indictment and the grand jury refused.

      The prosecution simply summoned a grand jury so it could spread the blame around for the failure to bring charges.

      The prosecutors could have left the grand jury out of it.

      I don’t think they need a grand jury’s approval to *drop* charges, only to *bring* charges.

    2. It’s the same outcome except the DA can now pin it on the GJ. And this smells rotten to the core for the reasons I gave above: the well is poisoned as soon as the prosecutor declares they don’t feel there’s reason enough to indict. At that point it’s the jurors’ layman opinions against the supposed expert’s. Tell me that doesn’t inform their decision.

      1. Right – and again, the reason a grand jury has to approve serious charges in Ohio is to protect the defendant *against the prosecutor* if the prosecutor wants to bring bogus charges.

        Since the prosecutor *doesn’t* want to bring charges, then it’s hardly a reflection on the grand jury’s shield function if it goes along with the prosecutor.

        If the prosecutor wanted an indictment but the grand jury refused – *then* would be the time to get out your “No Justice No Peace – abolish grand juries!” signs.

    3. Since grand jury proceedings are secret under penalty of jail time, we have absolutely no idea and will never know what the DA told the grand jury — it could have been total horse shit — before they came to their decision.

      1. I suppose they could pass a law to release the transcript if they’re investigating a cop.

        And just to make clear – the prosecutor *could* have ignored the grand jury and held a press conference saying, “I won’t prosecute.” But then even the dimmest members of the public would know who was responsible for the proescutor’s decision, so he wants to obfuscate the responsibility by implicating the grand jurors.

  16. Why would the grand jury need to vote if the black is already dead?

    1. * black kid

      1. Too late to walk it back, you’re a racist.

        /sarc

  17. We’re witnessing a legal and intellectual assault on the Bill of Rights – they want to empower prosecutors to drag people through a trial on serious charges without a panel of fellow-citizens having the power to say “wait a minute, this case is bogus!”

    And retards are cheering because they think they’re sticking it to abusive cops.

    But recall that Ohio* case where the cops and prosecutor wanted a guy indicted for a *felony* “for allegedly yelling a death threat at a police dog.” (see here).

    That would be the *real* effect of abolishing grand juries – the guy would have been dragged through felony proceedings for cursing a dog (cur-sing?).

    *Not Georgia as I originally said

    1. And in the minority of cases which actually go to a jury (where the defendant isn’t worn down into taking a plea), they’ll have to wait quite a long time, and spend a bunch of money, before the trial jury vindicates them.

      A grand jury protects them on the front end, *before* the really expensive parts of the trial.

      1. That’s the theory. In reality, grand juries essentially always indict when the prosecutor wants them to, because the prosecutor is allowed to pick and choose what evidence he shows them.

        1. Right, but the dog guy wasn’t indicted.

          1. And I’ve heard of other no bills also.

    2. I agree with what you are saying. GJ are important, but consider, if the prosecutor and the defense are in cahoots, perhaps the grand jury needs some recourse to push through a case anyways. Don’t erase them, give them some more options.

  18. If Reason really wants to hit one out of the park, they’ll figure out whether this policy was written in at the behest of the police union. I can think of no better way to give the illusion of accountability to the public than a process whereby the DA first presents a one-sided account, instructs the jury what the DA wants to do, and the asks them to affirm that decision or hold a vote to decide otherwise.

    1. “I can drop these charges on my own authority, but since I don’t have the courage, I ask you to do it for me. Then I can blame you for my own decision. What do you say, is it a deal?”

    2. I think I understand my confusion now: it’s never usually in doubt whether the prosecutor wants an indictment, because prosecutors only ever bring cases up GJ if they think they’ll get an indictment. Not so, in this case: they’re required to bring the case to GJ. It had never occurred to me that they can tell the jury how they’d decide because usually they’re there to get the jury to decide to indict.

      It’s still rank and an obvious sop to police unions.

      1. “in this case: they’re required to bring the case to GJ.”

        I think it’s more of an internal policy than a law.

        1. I think it’s more ass-covering than anything else.

  19. Stories said that the prosecutor instructed the grand jury to not indict. Looks like they weren’t cooperative, so he sent them home. Since they face jail if they tell anyone what happened, he’ll get away with it. And nothing else happens.

  20. he declared that that grand jury had declined to indict.

    What he meant to say was they declined to sign a paper saying that they would not indict, so he sent them home, telling them that they’d go to jail if they told anyone about this blatant injustice.

  21. I am very curious about this “investigative GJ” business. Is that prosecutor totally full of shit or is this really a distinction with legal/procedural merit in Ohio? If so, what evidence was this investigative jury presented? Did they by chance get to review the audio from inside the car in the minutes prior to the murder where Loehmann and Garmback agreed that they were going to shoot the subject on arrival?

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