In December, news broke that the Grand Jury in the Tamir Rice case where two police officers fatally shot a 12-year-old on camera declined to indict the officers but now it appears that they may not have voted on that decision at all. Cleveland Scene Weekly’s Eric Sandy, Vince Grzegorek and Sam Allard dug into the process and emerged more confused than ever. In December, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced that the Grand Jury “were told our recommendation, but they made the final decision” in not charging Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback in Rice’s death.
When the reporters requested to see proof of that decision, oddly enough there was nothing to see. In a grand jury proceeding, if the group decides to bring criminal charges, they produce a “true bill,” which gets its own case number in the court process. If they decides against bringing charges, they produce a “no-bill,” which is signed, stamped and kept in the county clerk’s office for posterity. In this case, neither a true bill or a no-bill is on file.
After learning and confirming on Jan. 15 that there was no “no-bill notification” on file at the county clerk’s office for the Tamir Rice grand jury proceedings, Scene formally requested the document officially showing the decision, however it was reached, and wherever said document might be. We were told that it didn’t exist. Employees at both the clerk’s and prosecutor’s officers were unable to explain the lack of paperwork,” Cleveland Scene reports.
Scene called the prosecutor’s office for clarification, and a publicist named Joe Frolik told them “it’s technically not a no-bill, because they didn’t vote on charges…. This was an investigative grand jury. This was kind of their role. Sometimes, a grand jury, after its investigation, will decide if there are no votes to be taken on charges.” However, McGinty didn’t refer to the grand jury as investigative, and a local Case Western Reserve University law professor named Lewis Katz said that the grand jury in this trial was likely not investigative. He added that he was “stunned” the grand jury didn’t vote—if they didn’t, what was the point of the proceedings?
When reporters reached out to Judge Nancy McDonnell, who presided over the Grand Jury, about the missing vote records, her office didn’t seem to have the paperwork either and declined to comment. So the guys headed to the Cuyahoga County grand jury office, where they were told that even if there were records to share—which there weren’t—they wouldn’t be able to see them without a court order from an Administrative and Presiding Judge named John J. Russo. They called Russo, who was just as baffled as everyone else but his office ultimately found that there was no “no bill” to be found. Russo promised to get more information from Judge McDonnell in a judges meeting on Wednesday but Scene has yet to hear back from anyone.