The internet is buzzing with news that Mike Freeman, the man assigned to the Jamar Clark murder, has decided not to use a grand jury for an indictment. According to ThinkProgress:
Freeman said he will not convene a grand jury to explore bringing charges against the two officers involved in Clark’s death, Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28, both of whom were put on administrative leave after the shooting but have since returned to desk jobs. Instead, Freeman himself will determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
“I concluded that the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome,” Freeman said in a statement. “So, at this point in time, and in a democracy where we continually strive to make our systems fairer, more just and more accountable, we in Hennepin County will not use the grand jury in the Jamar Clark case.”
Freeman also announced that he’ll no longer employ grand juries in police shooting cases in Hennepin County, breaking a precedent that stretches back at least 40 years.
While the old adage is that a prosecutor can persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, that isn’t the case when it comes to deadly force cases involving police officers. In Minnesota, there is no recorded instance of a cop being indicted for murder during the course of police duty.
What is being misunderstood here is that the juries themselves were the problem. That simply isn’t true. The problem with grand juries was two fold but it wasn’t with the actual jurors.
First, the prosecutor was allowed to present whatever evidence they see fit. It was common that many would withhold video, or audio, and other important evidence. Other times they would ask the jury to indict on charges unrelated, less severe or otherwise. Second, these hearings were conducted in secret and without anyone from the defense present. Even though it’s 2016 and we’re in full swing of the information/technology age these hearings have almost NO TRANSPARENCY. This is why non LEO’s are almost always indicted and LEO’s rarely indicted.
Now that Mr. Freeman has rid himself of juries, this ‘power’ will fall into his hands. Where it was all along and proves that this was merely a PR move to please those demanding more accountability. Before when grand juries would fail to indict a police officer the prosecutor would pass the buck to them. Claiming that the system has worked.
Now when Freeman wants to clear an officer he’ll just do it directly instead of via a one step removed process that was still fully under his control. One of my friends said that, “atleast he can be voted out of office then. Accountability is closer to home.” I hope that’s true but as we’ve seen many times district attorney’s have no problem backing the boys in blue. No matter how stupid it may sound.
The case involving former Paradise Police employee Patrick Feaster is a perfect example of that. When Feaster’s victim, Andrew Thomas, was still fighting for his life Mike Ramsey stated that his hands were tied due to California Law and therefore was unable to bring charges against the officer. He shot himself in the foot (figuratively) when he added without a death and when Thomas died he hand no choice but to charge Feaster. He still did him a solid by only charging him with involuntary manslaughter.
Let me get one last thing clear too, grand juries were/are bad too. Mostly because they were so heavily controlled by the prosecutor with little to no transparency. Yet, revamping them was not the solution and neither is this. IMO, there are no solutions that will bring TRUE accountability to government police policies, processes or its systems. Fixing grand juries still leaves the larger questions and is like putting a bandaid on an amputated limb. The reason for that has been outlined here a number of times but it comes down to the system must always protect its own. IMO, the only way to change that is to open the service of protect to the free market. Allow people the chance to withdraw their funds from police entities that do more harm than good. Just like the weed of Colorado we can put our funds into the hands of those who do good business instead of violent cartels that do bad business.
The local Black Lives Matter group was the loudest voice around asking for the removal of grand juries but they really should have been asking for the freedom to withdraw their support of the police. Then, without funds to shoot people while in handcuffs, things would have really changed. Now I feel you’re in for more of the same old same.