Archived: Cleveland Goes Straight to Judge Seeking Justice for Tamir Rice

After months of waiting for justice in the tragic murder of Tamir Rice, community leaders of Cleveland are taking matters into their own hands and going directly to a judge to press charges against officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann.

Just last week, the sheriff’s office announced that it found no evidence that a crime was committed in the fatal shooting of the twelve-year-old boy. Ordinarily, the next step would be to wait for the prosecutor’s office to examine these findings.

Instead, the community is invoking a law that allows charges to be filed directly at the hands of a judge. This uncommon law has seldom been enforced and has never resulted in an arrest in Ohio; however, it has never been attempted in such a high-profile case.

But citizens are running out of other options and not receiving answers by just waiting. “It has been more than six months since [Rice’s] tragic death and, yet, the people still have no answers and no one has been held accountable,” said Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

The case has come to this after a lack of justice in similar cases even where evidence was present. Eric Garner’s murder in Staten Island last July did not result in charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo, despite a video of the arrest that shows the victim uttering his now well-known plea, “I can’t breathe.” Despite the medical examiner’s finding that Garner’s death was indeed a homicide, the grand jury did not see it as “criminally negligent homicide.”

In some cases, the repercussions have been devastating. After Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson in Ferguson and no charges were filed, a series of violent riots plagued the city in response.

And given the emerging pattern, citizens are no longer waiting around to see if justice will be served since the answer has so often been no. After the funeral of Freddie Gray, enraged citizens rioted so their voices would be heard. So far, Baltimore has seen more justice than the other cities, since the six officers involved have been charged but only time will tell what the verdicts will be.

The Baltimore riots only came to life after Black citizens had been disappointed so many times before by the people they were supposed to be able to trust not only in the cases all across the country, but right there in Baltimore. They wanted to regain control of their city from people who were not controlling it in the right way.

That seems to be what’s happening now in Cleveland, according to Walter Madison, an attorney for the Rice family. “Here we are taking some control of the process as citizens,” he explained. “We are going to participate without even changing the law.”

Whether or not this strategy works remains to be seen. What is evident now, though, is that what little trust the people had in the legal system has evaporated completely. How this case is handled from here on out may very well set the precedent for other states with similar laws to follow the same course of action.

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