An attorney for the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer a year ago, has denounced recent remarks made by the prosecutor overseeing the case.
“Ms. Rice is shocked and disappointed that the prosecutor—rather than engage the serious, substantive concerns she and her counsel have raised about his bungling of the grand-jury process—has chosen to divert attention by attacking a mother grieving for her 12-year-old son,” attorney Subodh Chandra said in a statement Saturday to MSNBC.
The statement came after comments by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty Thursday at an event sponsored by a group of Cleveland Democratic clubs in which McGinty was asked by a reporter whether he would accede to Samaria Rice and her attorney’s calls for him to recuse himself from the case. Attorneys for Rice’s family have been critical of McGinty, citing lengthy delays in the case, which stems from the fatal November 22, 2014 shooting of the 12-year-old by a Cleveland police officer as he held a toy pellet gun while playing at a community center near his home. A 911 caller told police a “man” was armed with a gun, prompting the officers to respond.
McGinty, a Democrat, has referred the case to a grand jury. But a group of local civil rights attorneys, calling themselves the Cleveland Eight, went before a judge this summer, who in June issued a ruling finding probable cause to charge officer Timothy Loehmann -- who shot Rice -- with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and other charges, and to charge his partner, officer Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.
McGinty has ignored the judge’s ruling, saying his office will make a recommendation to the grand jury when its investigation concludes.
The Rice family has also criticized the prosecutor’s release of reports from two out-of-state experts, who concluded that the shooting was “reasonable,” based on the general facts involved. Lawyers for the family have called the experts biased.
"They waited until they didn't like the reports they received,” McGinty said in response to reporter Hilary Golston of NBC affiliate WKYC, who asked: “Samaria Rice's attorney -- and Samaria Rice herself --- they have said a special prosecutor should take over. Will you step aside?"
“They're very interesting people … let me just leave it at that,” McGinty said. “And they have their own economic motives."
Reached for comment, Chandra told MSNBC via email: “The prosecutor's attack on a crime victim's mother only underscores the urgency that a truly independent prosecutor be appointed, or—given this prosecutor's continued refusal to fail to step aside to avoid the appearance of impropriety—for him to tell Ms. Rice and the public what his recommendation to the grand jury is before he makes it.”
McGinty’s communications and public policy director, Joseph Frolik, told MNSBC in a statement: "The response was not about Ms. Rice. We have never once criticized Tamir's mother or questioned her right to grieve in any way. We have met with her repeatedly and cooperated with her in every possible manner. And we will continue to do so.”
Chandra responded to Frolik’s statement in his comments to MSNBC: “The prosecutor's P.R. flack is trying to do damage control, but the disdain the prosecutor has expressed for Ms. Rice and his bizarre behavior have tainted the grand-jury process."
"Ms. Rice is concerned that the prosecutor is preordaining the result and denying justice for Tamir," Chandra continued.