November 15, 2017 10:43 AM
Grand jury proceedings will no longer be used in any police shooting cases in Hennepin County, Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.
Freeman says the grand jury process doesn’t provide enough accountability or transparency and that those issues are “too high a hurdle to overcome” for a democratic society.
The announcement came during a news conference about 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer on Nov. 15. Freeman said a grand jury would not be used in that case; instead, Freeman himself will instead decide if the officers involved in Clark’s death will be charged.
Before making the announcement, Freeman outlined both the pros and cons of using a grand jury.
"By tradition, this office has used the grand jury in a belief that 23 diverse opinions from the community will more accurately evaluate what the evidence really shows and whether charges should be brought," Freeman said at Wednesday’s news conference. "Supporters maintain that grand jurors might be less impacted by non-legal considerations in making this most difficult charging decision: whether or not to charge a police officer for criminal misuse of force. Others dislike the grand jury process because under law and practice, its proceedings are essentially private and the basis for the grand jury’s decision is confidential. Also, names of the grand jury members are not made public and, therefore, there is a perceived lack of accountability. Secrecy, lack of transparency and no direct accountability strikes us as very problematic in a democratic society.”
Protesters have been calling for the Minneapolis police officers involved in Clark's death to be charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter, and they have wanted those charges to come directly from Freeman rather than through a grand jury.
Freeman previously said the case would be presented to a grand jury and that his office would file a report of the grand jury’s findings by the end of March. That is no longer the case.
"The ensuing months have given me more time to think about the grand jury," Freeman said. "As an elected official, I also took that time to meet with more people and listen to their concerns. I concluded that the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome. 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."
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau also weighed in on the announcement Wednesday, saying, “I respect this was a challenging decision for the County Attorney to make. The legal standards and thresholds remain the same, whether this case is looked at by a grand jury or reviewed by the County Attorney.”
Clark died after he was shot by a Minneapolis officer during what authorities said was a struggle. Police say Clark was interfering with the paramedics who were treating a woman who Clark was accused of assaulting.
A police union spokesman says Clark was shot after reaching for an officer's gun, but several people who say they witnessed the shooting insist Clark was handcuffed and not resisting arrest at the time he was shot.
Demonstrators camped out in front of the 4th Precinct for more than two weeks in November to protest Clark’s death.
KSTP has tried to find the woman who police say Clark assaulted, but she has not come forward to talk about what happened.
Last week, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension made a final plea for witnesses to come forward with evidence. Any witnesses who have not talked to investigators or anyone who has additional video regarding the death of Clark is asked to contact the BCA at 651-793-7000.
Updated: November 15, 2017 10:43 AM
Created: March 16, 2016 11:07 AM
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