November 23, 2015 – On the anniversary of 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s killing by police in Cleveland, a coalition of law students, legal workers and attorneys known as Law for Black Lives issued the following statement:
Law4BlackLives, a collection of law students, legal workers, and attorneys, stands in solidarity with the family of Tamir Rice, local Cleveland clergy and religious leaders, members of the Cuyahoga County Council, and over 200,000 individuals and organizers from across the country in calling on Tim McGinty to step aside and allow an independent prosecutor to take over the case against Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed one year ago today. His killing by police reflects the systematic dehumanizing and criminalizing of Black children in the United States. The reality that a year later the officers responsible continue to be paid from city coffers and have faced no consequences is a testament to the way our flawed criminal justice system devalues Black life.
As lawyers from across the country, we feel morally obligated to articulate our concerns about the way that McGinty has handled this case. As colleagues, we call on him to step aside. We know all too well that a lack of a criminal indictment in this case is not a question of process but instead a question of will. McGinty has not honored his obligations as a steward of justice. To the contrary, at every step of the process – from his refusal to call a grand jury for nearly a year, to his complete dismissal of an Ohio judge’s ruling that criminal charges should be brought, to his disrespectful comments about the family of Tamir Rice, to his reliance on and publication of dubious experts’ findings – he has acted defensively with regard to Officer Loehmann and Garmback’s use of force, and offensively against Tamir Rice’s family. We have little faith that McGinty will objectively and effectively seek justice in this case.
McGinty’s conduct is but one example of our criminal justice system’s refusal to examine the routine and systematic use of lethal police force against Black people in this country. The refusal of prosecutors, from Ferguson to New York, to hold officers involved in misconduct accountable while daily condemning countless Black people to cages is an all too familiar phenomenon. The vesting of complete discretion in the hands of individual prosecutors, who are subject to no meaningful oversight, leads to the miscarriage of justice in courtrooms across the country. While millions of Black, Brown, and poor people are subject to repeated miscarriages of justice, police officers too often face no consequences for their behavior. Unbridled and unchecked prosecutorial power is a major contribution to mass incarceration and perpetuates our anti-Black justice system.
The removal of McGinty is an important first step. On this tragic anniversary we, as lawyers, law students, and legal workers committed to justice and liberation, join the chorus of voices demanding a special prosecutor take over the case.
Law4BlackLives was a groundbreaking conference sponsored by CCR’s Bertha Justice Institute last summer and attended by more than 1,000 people. As we began planning for the conference, we convened a steering committee of organizations and activists in the movement for Black Lives. Following the success of the conference, the steering committee has continued to strategize and organize.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.