Another delay in justice for Tamir Rice

CLEVELAND – The effort to force the arrests of two Cleveland police officers involved in the November 22, 2014, death of Tamir Rice hit a stumbling block when an Ohio magistrate allowed Judge Ronald Adrine 20 additional days to file a brief in an appeals case. Adrine’s lawyers missed their deadline to respond to an appeal by private citizens seeking to force Judge Adrine to issue arrest warrants.

The case was set in motion in June when a group of eight Cleveland clergy and community activists, sometimes referred to as the “Cleveland Eight,” filed affidavits in a city court alleging that Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback are responsible for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. A long established yet rarely used Ohio law allows any private citizen who has knowledge of a crime to file an affidavit with a judge to cause an arrest.

Just two days after the Cleveland Eight filed affidavits, Judge Ronald Adrine issued a 10-page opinion calling a now infamous park surveillance video of the murder “notorious and hard to watch” and a piece of evidence that left the court “thunderstruck by how quickly [the 12-second event] turned deadly.” Adrine then described the shooting in detail before finding probable cause to charge Officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty. The court also found probable cause to charge Officer Frank Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.

But Adrine characterized his opinion as “advisory” and declined to issue any arrest warrants. Instead, he forwarded his findings to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty to for further handling.

The Cleveland Eight appealed Adrine’s ruling, arguing that state law leaves no room for judges to issue advisory opinions and that the officers must be arrested. It is now up to Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals to decide.

Lawyers for Judge Adrine missed a filing deadline to respond to the Eight’s claims and instead requested 20 more days. The request for more time was itself three days late.

The Cleveland Eight are litigating their case pro se – without any lawyer – and were quick to oppose Adrine’s request for more time. A pleading filed by the Eight the next morning stated, “a law firm that advertises a litigation team with experience in over 450 appeals filed an untimely request for a 20-day extension of time to file a brief to respond to pro se appellants on a matter of pure statutory interpretation. The reason given? They had other cases to work on.”

The Cleveland Eight’s pleading described the request for more time as “pretextual,” an indication that Adrine and his lawyers may be buying time in order to avoid publicly humiliating Prosecutor McGinty, who has failed to force an arrest or secure an indictment.

Despite the swift opposition from the Eight, Magistrate Ute Lindenmaier Vilfroy granted Adrine and his lawyers 20 more days to file their brief.

Rachelle Smith, one of the Eight, expressed her frustration. “Individuals who can help move us toward an equal and just justice system are simply ‘too busy’ to bother – too busy appealing on behalf of private interests and financial gain to prioritize the death of a 12-year-old boy.”

According to Smith, the legal action is “not about us,” but rather, one part of a “multifaceted approach” to bring about justice for Tamir Rice. She feels that Adrine has a clear legal duty to issue warrants for the officers’ arrests and that Cleveland’s taxpayers should not be paying the salary of officers who should be arraigned for felonies.

Adrine now has until October 5 to respond to the Cleveland Eight’s arguments.

Photo: Samaria Rice center, the mother of Tamir Rice, and others march in Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally. More than 10,000 protesters converged on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police.   |  Jose Luis Magana/AP