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.