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Leo Terrell on Why Justice Will Never Be Served for 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice (Guest Blog)

Civil rights attorney and L.A. radio host pens Wrap op-ed on decision not to indict police officers involved in fatal shooting of Rice

Today, an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice for possessing a fake firearm. Cuyahoga County District Attorney Tim McGinty’s failure to prosecute is another clear example of how justice will never be served when the district attorney is prosecuting police officers for crimes they commit in the line of duty.

Police officers and district attorneys represent the same arm in government and in essence sleep in the same bed together. Simply stated, police officers’ jobs are to catch criminals and they rely on the district attorney to prosecute criminals. The district attorney relies on the police officers to help gather evidence to prosecute criminals. They depend on each other for their existence. You and I should not be surprised when the district attorney issues a finding that police officers who have been accused of committing crimes did nothing wrong.

For example, if you or I are accused of murder, the district attorney has no problem (or hesitation) immediately filing 25 charges against us to create pressure, put us in jail, deny us bail, and ruin our lives. We potentially lose our jobs due to those criminal charges and our lives are destroyed.

However, when police officers are alleged to have committed crimes, it is not uncommon to see district attorneys dragging their feet to investigate police officers. Meanwhile, the officers get to keep their jobs without being subjected to life-altering criminal charges.

If the district attorney starts treating police officers like the common folk, I doubt police officers would continue to help the district attorney gather evidence to prosecute criminals. This relationship clearly dictates how the district attorney proceeds against police officers when they are alleged to have committed crimes.

In the Tamir Rice case, the district attorney has been quite clever to avoid creating the impression that he is going after the officers who shot Tamir Rice. There is nothing stopping him from filing charges against police officers. Instead, the district attorney punted the responsibility of charging the officers to the grand jury. This way, the district attorney could avoid upsetting the police.

What is disturbing is the district attorney also gets to control the evidence that the grand jury sees to decide whether to charge the officers. Not only did the district attorney avoid friction with the police department by not filing charges himself, he created more good will by limiting the incriminating evidence the grand jury got to see. The grand jury system is rigged. Thus, justice will never be served when the district attorney is asked to prosecute police officers.

In order for actual justice to be served, we need to overhaul the system so district attorneys are not assigned the task of prosecuting their own.

Unfortunately in the case of Tamir Rice, justice will never be served. At the end of the day, the city of Cleveland will pay out money to Tamir Rice’s family to buy peace. However, that is blood money that belongs to you and I.

Ultimately, you and I lose and justice is not served because it is the public that pays out that blood money. The district attorney gets to avoid all responsibility.

Leo Terrell is a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles. He has provided legal and political commentary on radio and TV programs such as "Nightline," "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN and Fox News. A family friend of O. J. Simpson, Terrell also provided legal commentary about Simpson's civil trial. Terrell was an Advisory Board Member for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a member of the Statewide Commission Against Hate Crimes and the Chairman of the Black-Korean Alliance. He also previously hosted a weekend legal show on KABC radio in Los Angeles and continues to be a recurring guest host on the station.