POLITICS
12/28/2015 07:27 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2015

No One Was Indicted In The Tamir Rice Case. That Was The Plan All Along.

The prosecutor made it abundantly clear he wanted the two cops to walk.

For the first time since Tamir Rice was shot and killed by the Cleveland police last year, the prosecutor in the case ran from the press.

After announcing the grand jury's decision on Monday not to indict anyone in the 12-year-old's death, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty simply left and didn't take any questions.

McGinty did acknowledge that the outcome "will not cheer anyone," and offered a more-or-less correct view about what the law demands of police officers making split-second decisions when they fear for their lives.

"It would be irresponsible and unreasonable if the law required a police officer to wait and see if the gun was real," McGinty said, in reference to the toy gun the 12-year-old held as officer Timothy Loehmann perceived a threat he felt left him no choice but to shoot.

All along the grand-jury probe of the Tamir Rice shooting, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty offered clues as to the
ASSOCIATED PRESS
All along the grand-jury probe of the Tamir Rice shooting, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty offered clues as to the "reasonableness" of the boy's death.

That constitutional standard has been with us since the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Connor 25 years ago, effectively ruling that cops can shoot you dead as long as their sense of self-preservation is "reasonable" in the face of your perceived dangerousness.

And reasonable means a million nebulous things in the law that no amount of protesting or arguing or hashtags for justice will change unless the Supreme Court reverses course or clarifies things. That won't be happening anytime soon.

But this specific constitutional nuance shouldn't have mattered to McGinty, whose job before the grand jury wasn't to seek Loehmann's absolution. His only role before the grand jury, in this case and all other cases, was to present enough evidence to justify a prosecution by the state -- to get the wheels of justice rolling, so to speak.

That's a very low bar. So low that Justice Antonin Scalia once explained that he and his colleagues refused time and again to micromanage prosecutors because they were unwilling to "alter the grand jury's historical role, transforming it from an accusatory to an adjudicatory body."

Because in the end, all prosecutors and grand jurors do is accuse. If the war on drugs has taught us anything, it's that prosecutors are very good at convincing grand juries that a criminal case is warranted, even on the flimsiest of evidence.

A judge concluded as much in June when he found that there was probable cause to prosecute Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback. That's really all there is to it.

It has been clear for months that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment. Attorneys for the family of Tamir Rice

But somewhere along the way, McGinty decided to go beyond his role, resorting to tactics not even the prosecutors in the probes of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases dared attempt.

Not only did he decide to talk to the press. Ahead of Monday's announcement, he also released report after report to the media -- lengthy experts' accounts rife with legalese that tried to exonerate Loehmann and Garmback of any wrongdoing.

"Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat," read one of them.

And in case any doubt remained about his commitment to the officers' cause, McGinty released a third report in November, complete with a frame-by-frame analysis of the shooting. The conclusion there was even more dramatic.

"This unquestionably was a tragic loss of life, but to compound the tragedy by labeling the officer's conduct as anything but objectively reasonable would also be a tragedy, albeit not carrying with it the consequences of the loss of life, only the possibility of loss of career," the report said.

No wonder the Rice family wasn't the least bit surprised with Monday's outcome. 

"It has been clear for months that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," the family said Monday through its attorneys.

Even the Department of Justice, in its own investigation of systemic problems within the Cleveland Police Department, couldn't seem to stomach how officials there investigated police brutality cases with an eye toward finding no wrongdoing from their own.

"Deeply troubling to us," DOJ lawyers wrote last December, "was that some of the specially-trained investigators who are charged with conducting unbiased reviews of officers’ use of deadly force admitted to us that they conduct their investigations with the goal of casting the accused officer in the most positive light possible."

Indeed, that's precisely the treatment McGinty gave Loehmann and Garmback ahead of Monday's outcome. The prosecutor did not take any questions from the press, but he really didn't have to; he had already said all he wanted to.

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