"For many months, we have witnessed a series of anomalies and biased practices by the local prosecutor, suggesting that the investigation into this tragic shooting was not being conducted in a fair and impartial manner," reads the nine-page letter (to which is appended three exhibits of earlier correspondence and which is also addressed to Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta and US Attorney Steven Dettelbach).
Last week, after taking the unusual step of asking the crime victim’s family to gather evidence to present to the grand jury (when that should be the prosecutor’s job), the prosecutors put the expert witnesses located by Tamir’s family on the stand. But, instead of allowing them to explain their findings to the grand jury, the prosecutors immediately launched into an improper cross-examination that included smirking and mocking the experts, pointing a toy gun in an expert’s face, and suggesting that the experts were not sufficiently concerned with preserving the police officers’ “liberty interest.”
This treatment of the expert witnesses who Tamir’s family had to find after the prosecutor refused to do so made it clear that these prosecutors are not engaged in a search for truth or justice, but rather are conducting a charade process aimed at exonerating the officers. In light of the prosecutors’ extreme bias, we are compelled to bring this situation to your attention and request a formal intervention by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).
Later in the letter, the lawyers point out the irony of a vigorous cross-examination of the Rice Family experts when the officers themselves, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, were permitted to read their statements before the grand jury without submitting to follow-up questions.
In a letter to McGinty's office earlier this month, the Rice family lawyers cited the 1958 Supreme Court case Brown v. United States, which held that a witness can “not take the stand to testify in [his] own behalf and also claim the right to be free from cross-examination on matters raised by [his] own testimony on direct examination.”
"Precedent has established," read that letter, "that when you read a prepared statement, you thereby waive your Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
In a statement today, the New York firm representing the Rice family said that this latest example of prosecutorial misconduct "provides further evidence that the grand-jury process has been irreparably harmed in this very important case. It is clear local prosecutors are doing everything in their power to exonerate the officers, no matter what the evidence shows."
The prosecutor's office has held that they've done everything in the spirit of openness and transparency. "The investigation is continuing and ultimately the Grand Jury will make its decision based on all the evidence," McGinty said upon the release of the officer statements earlier this month. But the Rice family lawyers contend that "transparency" has been a guise, and that the disclosure of grand jury deliberations is prohibited by law.
UPDATE: McGinty responded to the lawyers' letter with a statement Tuesday afternoon:
"These plaintiffs' attorneys have spent months trying to inflame the media with repeated, often inaccurate statements lobbying for their desired outcome. But when it comes to discussing what goes on inside any Grand Jury room, attorneys know our hands our tied. As prosecutors, we are not permitted to discuss the testimony given to any Grand Jury. This means the news media can receive a one-sided version of the story from lawyers who were not there. Any witness who appears before the Grand Jury is treated with respect, but should expect thorough questioning from prosecutors and the grand jurors themselves."
His comments echo earlier comments provided by Joe Frolik that the attorneys aren't privy to the goings-on behind the grand jury's closed doors.
The Public Information Officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Mike Tobin, was unavailable for comment when we reached out by phone this morning.