An unprecedented decision was made this week by the Hennepin County attorney after a deadly officer-involved shooting last November.
Attorney Mike Freeman made the bombshell announcement — at a news conference on Wednesday — that a grand jury would no longer be used to consider police shooting cases in the county.
At first, Freeman talked about a specific case involving 24-year-old Jamar Clark who was shot and killed during a struggle with police last November, while paramedics were trying to treat a woman he had allegedly assaulted.
His death sparked weeks of protests. Demonstrators camped out at the 4th precinct for more than two weeks, ABC5 reported. The protesters are demanding that the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the case be charged with second degree murder or manslaughter.
Freeman said he alone will make the decision about whether to file charges– sidelining a grand jury process that’s been used in the county for decades. Traditionally, Freeman said, “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.”
However, the county attorney says that process does not provide enough “accountability or transparency” and those issues are “too high a hurdle to overcome” for a democratic society. It’s problematic for many that the basis for a grand jury’s decision is confidential.
There’s also this “perceived lack of accountability” because the names of the grand jury members are not made public.
It’s unclear exactly what prompted Freeman to make this decision now, but he did say he started looking at the use of grand juries in police shootings 16 months ago. That was about the same time that civil unrest erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, following a grand jury decision not to indict the officer involved in the Michael Brown shooting.
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