Above Photo: OccupyTheBronx.com.
On Monday, an Ohio grand jury decided not to bring charges against two police officers in the 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice. The day after the decision was announced, Ikiesha Al-Shabazz Whittaker, a former Manhattan prosecutor, posted a video on Facebook to express her frustration with the country’s legal system. She also explained, in her expletive-laden rant, why grand juries don’t indict police officers. “I know some things that I don’t think you guys know,” she says at the beginning of the video, which has been viewed more than 1.3 million times in 48 hours. “I want to share it with you because my level of outrage and frustration is at an all-time high. I don’t want to be in this fucking country no more. I just want to fucking leave.”
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE THE VIDEO:
Grand jury proceedings operate in secret, she goes on to explain, and are closed to the public and to the defense counsel. (Whittaker herself is now a defense attorney who lives in Nassau County.)
On the day he was killed, Rice, a twelve-year-old boy, was playing with a toy gun — which Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said was “indistinguishable” from a real gun on a surveillance video. Rice is also shown playing with snowballs outside the local recreation center before Officer Timothy Loehmann shoots him. McGinty called the shooting “a perfect storm of human error.”
“The entire presentation is controlled, is orchestrated by the prosecutor. The evidence that goes in, the witnesses that go in, how the evidence is presented — the spin — prosecutors control the grand jury.” She points to the lack of judicial oversight and the prosecutorial power that plays into the grand jury process, recalling the expression of former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals Sol Wachtler, who famously said that prosecutors can get grand juries to “indict a ham sandwich.”
“That saying…is fucking true,” says Whittaker. “I indicted motherfuckers for five whole years, OK? And I’m telling you it don’t take shit to do it.” She suggests that the only way to put an end to instances of cops avoiding indictment in police shooting cases is to overhaul the grand jury system altogether.
“Legislators need to change the way grand jury presentations are conducted,” she says. “You can’t keep banging your head against a wall and expect the wall to give!” We’ve reached out to Whittaker and will update this post if we hear back from her.