Leaders from the the community with activists and clergy hold a press conference outside the Justice Center in Cleveland, OH, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. They filed affidavits with the Cleveland Municipal Court seeking the arrests of police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year. (Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer)
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on June 09, 2015 at 3:03 PM, updated June 10, 2015 at 7:18 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Eight clergy members and community activists filed court papers Tuesday seeking the arrest of two Cleveland police officers involved in the November shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Each person, under a rarely used Ohio law, filed affidavits asking a Cleveland Municipal Court judge to find probable cause to arrest Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback on aggravated murder, murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges.
“We believe that (Loehmann) and (Garmback) caused the death of Tamir Rice in deeds that were unconscionable, reprehensible, and, yes, criminal,” the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church said at a press conference after the filing was made.
Citing surveillance footage of the Nov. 22 shooting at Cudell Recreation Center as evidence, the affidavits seek to leapfrog Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s office as it prepares to present evidence to a grand jury, a process that could take weeks.
The motion would force Judge Ronald B. Adrine, the administrative and presiding judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court, to decide if enough evidence exists to arrest Loehmann and Garmback before a grand jury sees any evidence.
Cleveland Municipal Court officials have not set a timeline for his decision.
Activists said the move is an attempt to use the long-established, yet seldom-invoked law to force the judicial system to confront the case more than six months after the boy was shot.
“I’m not happy that we have to do this,” the Rev. R.A. Vernon, pastor at The Word Church said. “As an American citizen I wish I could depend on our criminal justice system to do what is right.”
Under the law, Adrine has to issue the arrest warrants unless he finds the affidavits were filed maliciously or the allegations in them are not accurate, Michael Benza, a senior law professor at Case Western Reserve University said.
And Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis’ argumentthat Loehmann was justified in shooting Tamir because the boy reached for what turned out to be an airsoft-type pellet gun would be irrelevant, Benza said.
An officers’ right to use force is a defense made at trial, not an argument against an arrest, Benza said. He pointed to the trial of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, who was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the 2012 killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
Judge John O’Donnell found Brelo not guilty based in part on the fact that Brelo’s defense argued that the officer was justified in firing 49 shots, including 15 from the hood of a car.
“Looking at what you’ve got in this case, I think it’s very possible that the judge will issue the warrant to arrest these officers,” Benza said.
If Adrine does sign off on the arrests, Loehmann and Garmback would appear before a judge and have their bond set at an arraignment, Benza said. The case would be sent to McGinty’s office to be presented to a grand jury, which will decide if the officers should be charged with any crimes.
For that reason, any arrest would not likely to lead to a quicker indictment, Benza said.
Martin Belsky, professor of law at University of Akron, said the affidavits will ultimately have no affect on McGinty’s handling of the case.
“The purpose of the community effort is really small p – political – to put pressure on the prosecutor to act,” Belsky sad. “It does not and cannot interfere with his or her full discretion to handle the case.”
But to the activists, it would signal a shift in a criminal justice system they believe is stacked against normal citizens and gives too much deference to police officers who use deadly force.
“I don’t think they are terrible men,” Vernon said of Loehmann and Garmback. “They may even regret what they did, they may not have even done it on purpose, but they did it. And when you make mistakes like that, you have to be held accountable.”
In addition to Colvin and Vernon, the affidavits were signed by: Edward Little Jr., a criminal justice consultant; Rhonda Williams, director of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University; Bakari Kitwana, author; Joseph Worthy Jr., executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund; Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; and Rachelle Smith, a community activist.
Orginally Posted @ http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/06/cleveland_group_releases_affid.html