NewsLocal News


Lawyers for Tamir Rice's family send letter to DOJ demanding to know why investigation was closed

Also questions why they weren't informed
Posted at 5:25 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 17:25:05-05

Attorneys representing the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot and killed by Cleveland police in 2014, have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, demanding answers after two revelatory stories from the New York Times and Washington Post reported that the federal investigation ended when political supervisors denied requests from career prosecutors to convene a grand jury to investigate the case.

"They should be indicted and convicted," said Samaria Rice about the officers involved in her son's death. "Both of them."

Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann after he and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, responded to a call at Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22, 2014.

"It’s awful not to have no justice for your child," Samaria Rice told News 5 in a Nov. 20 story about stalled federal efforts. "My son was only 12."

RELATED: A Cleveland police officer killed her son. Tamir Rice’s mother says she hasn't received justice.

The letter, which was sent by the Chandra Law Firm to Attorney General William Barr and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband, demands that these DOJ officials:

(1) Confirm that the Department of Justice has no intention to provide the Rice family with justice, and provide a full account of what internal recommendations about investigation and prosecution of the officers were made by whom, why internal review took so long, and who was responsible for the delay and any decisions not to convene a grand jury or prosecute;

(2) Explain why the Department of Justice did not communicate these decisions to Ms. Rice through her counsel, despite her right under 42 U.S.C. § 10607(c)(3)(A) and (e)(2)(B)(3) to notice of the status of the investigation, and her right under Ohio law to be treated with dignity and respect;

(3) Provided unredacted copies of the internal memoranda recommendations to supervisors and attachments from the career prosecutors (the newspaper articles referenced two memoranda);

(4) Provide a copy of the whistleblower complaint referenced in the articles, and any attachments, with the whistleblower’s name redacted; and

(5) Explain why the Department’s Office of Inspector General refused to investigate this incident, when the jurisdiction of the Office of Professional Ethics is more limited to violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct rather than the broader decision-making integrity issues that are a part of the Inspector General’s purview.

The letter suggests that the current administration “unduly delayed decision-making and politically interfered with the reasoned judgment of career, line prosecutors,” and notes that "the line prosecutors reportedly resigned from Department of Justice service—understandable if this administration did not allow them to render civil-rights justice in such an important case."

The Chandra Law Firm letter goes on to note that "no Department of Justice official has had the courtesy or decency" to inform the Rice family or their counsel about the developments in the case, or to "explain what happened, thus further torturing the Rice family in their despair and grief,” the letter states. “We had to learn about this from the media.”

The Rice family attorneys said it appears that the DOJ will allow the federal statute of limitations for obstruction of justice to lapse in this case on or about Dec. 1, 2020, “despite multiple efforts from career prosecutors to convene a grand jury."

The law firm further alleges that the conduct of Barr’s Justice Department violates the law protecting crime victims. Under federal law and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, “Ms. Rice had the right to ‘notice of the status of the investigation of the crime,’” the letter states.

“While this behavior is at least consistent with this administration’s other open efforts to undermine the rule of law in America, it is doubly devastating to this grieving family,” the letter states.

Because there is still one year left on the statute of limitations in Ohio on potential obstruction-of-justice charges, the letter is also demanding the career prosecutors' memos recommending prosecution.

“If you won’t secure justice for the Rice family, please give them the benefit of the career federal prosecutors’ investigation and thinking, so they can seek justice from the State of Ohio,” Chandra Law Firm representatives stated.

The law firm said that if Barr refuses to cooperate, “we will renew our request with the next administration."

In the letter, lawyer Subodh Chandra noted how unusual it is for political supervisors at the DOJ to overrule the recommendations of career prosecutors, saying he cannot think of a single time it happened during his career as a federal prosecutor.

“The overarching injustice and cruelty of this situation is that the statute of limitations is going to run about two months before the seating of a new administration that would allow the career prosecutors to do their jobs,” Chandra said. “Whether the Department of Justice pursues or denies justice should not depend on the whimsical, capricious, and political grounds apparent here."

"We are dismayed that—in the analysis of career prosecutors—sufficient evidence exists to pursue a grand-jury investigation, but that politics trumps the law," the letter states.

The letter, which you can read here, requests a response by Dec. 4, 2020.