McGinty responds to NAACP demand for transcripts

Posted at 7:29 AM, Jan 07, 2016

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty responded Wednesday to the NAACP's demand that the Tamir Rice grand jury transcripts be made public. 

McGinty said it would be against the law to reveal the full testimony that was heard by the grand jury.

The Cleveland branch of the NAACP submitted a request to the prosecutor this week, asking that the transcripts form the witnesses' testimonies be released. Members said it's important for the community of Cleveland to know what went on during that grand jury. 

Read McGinty's full response below: 

Mr. Nelson misunderstands the process followed in the Tamir Rice case and in the other 19 fatal use of deadly force cases this office has reviewed or will review. This office has always been extremely careful not to release any Grand Jury testimony and to comply with the law. But every time police use deadly force and kill a citizen, an independent investigation will be conducted, and we will make those results public. These investigative reports are not Grand Jury secrets. The public has a right to know what actually happened.
As promised to the public, I released the completed sheriff’s investigation of Officers Loehmann and Garmback. Attorney General Mike DeWine and I did the same after the BCI investigation of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo and the other officers involved in the chase and deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. A thorough investigation was conducted and made public so that rumors or false information did not carry the day as happened in Ferguson. Mr. Nelson never suggested that we undermined the integrity of the Grand Jury by the letting the public know what happened in the Brelo case. The only complaints about transparency then were from the police union. But now, after the Grand Jury produced an outcome with which Mr. Nelson disagrees, he takes issue with the process.
Four years ago, I promised to give the public a full accounting whenever the police kill a civilian. That is what we have done and will do. I also promised to have all of these civilian-death cases reviewed by the Grand Jury; no longer would the prosecutor alone review police reports and personally decide not to file charges. The result of that arbitrary process, as we all know, was that no one can recall a Cleveland police officer being indicted for the death of civilian for a quarter century before the Brelo case.
Although not required by Ohio law, we have changed the process to make it more open, honest and accountable to the public. This way, the public will know what actually happened. This allows for police and cities to make the reforms and policy changes necessary to prevent the same mistakes.
What we never promised – and could not promise without violating the law – is to reveal testimony before the Grand Jury. The written investigative report issued to the public and the Grand Jury investigation are totally separate and must remain so by law.
Everything that was revealed to news organizations about testimony in this case was done so by civil attorneys or the witnesses themselves. Prosecutors by law cannot comment what occurred in the Grand Jury.
The cases cited by Mr. Nelson do not support his argument and do not reflect Ohio law. Grand Jury secrecy is designed to allow Grand Jurors and witnesses to perform their legal duties without fear of retaliation or recrimination. Mr. Nelson’s call for eliminating Grand Jury protections in this case would set a dangerous precedent. To subject the Grand Jury to the hate mail and death threats this case has generated would be unwise and unfair to the dedicated citizens who served as Grand Jurors.
Instead of trying to overturn centuries of legal precedent regarding the Grand Jury, we want to join Mr. Nelson and his venerable organization to make sure the mistakes that led to a 12-year-old child’s unnecessary death are not repeated.
The city has already reached a historic agreement with the Department of Justice that is producing needed changes in hiring, policy and tactics. Under the leadership of Mayor Jackson and Chief Williams, the city has added dash- and body-cams, improved training for officers and dispatch and provided first aid instructions for officers. Tamir will not have died in vain if we learn from the mistakes made in this case.