Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has said he will use a grand jury to determine whether to pursue charges against officers who fatally shot 24-year-old Jamar Clark on November 15. Grand juries consistently fail to deliver justice in cases of fatal police shootings. In grand juries, prosecutors often rely on evidence gained solely from police. Moreover, the process is extremely secretive: the prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room to the public, including any evidence or videos presented.
Since 2000, 141 Minnesotans have been killed by police. Grand juries have returned indictments in zero of these cases. While Mike Freeman insists grand juries have been a part of Minnesota’s justice system for 35 years, this is exactly the reason to eliminate their use in cases of fatal police encounters. The criminal justice system has been purposefully failing people of color for centuries. It is time to change our approach.
Grand juries are neither effective nor required by law. California recently became the first state to ban grand juries in cases of deadly force by police. Recently, the city of Baltimore directly indicted police officers in the death of Freddie Gray without resorting to a grand jury process. A special prosecutor can and should decide whether to pursue charges directly, without obstructing justice via a grand jury.
We call on County Attorney Mike Freeman to appoint a special prosecutor from a county demographically similar to Hennepin County, and forego the grand jury process.