From: Jordan Kushner Date: 2:58pm, Sept 20
No comment so far on the grand jury. Obviously no surprise. For those concerned, it is important to realize that the grand jury process is completely a political tool to avoid political responsibility and transparency.
Mike Freeman has no legal obligation to have a grand jury make the decision. A grand jury is only required in Minnesota to charge cases of first degree murder and certain career sex offender cases that carry mandatory life imprisonment. This case does [not] fit first degree murder (premeditated or other inapplicable circumstances). It is at most a second degree murder case if an officer intentionally shot Terrance Franklin without justification. The county attorney almost never uses a grand jury if he does not have to do so. It is a needless expenditure of time and money. The office just makes its own decision. The only exception is when a police officer is accused of criminal conduct, or other rare politically sensitive cases where the county attorney wants to avoid accountability for the decision whether to bring criminal charges.
The next thing to realize is that if a only grand jury “decides” not to return an indictment (criminal charge) because the county attorney does not want it to. In the secret grand jury proceedings, the county attorney exclusively decides what testimony and evidence to present to the grand jury. The oft-repeated saying/cliche in the field is “you can indict a ham sandwich.” The only time you hear about a grand jury not returning an indictment is when the case involves a police officer. It is just a convenient way for the county attorney to ownership of the decision.
It is also a convenient way for the county attorney to avoid having to explain his decision and keep the public in the dark. The other politically convenient aspect of the grand jury is that the law requires proceedings to be secret. The identity of the grand jurors is secret so we don’t get to hear from the people who decided not to indict why they made the decision. Since the witnesses and evidence presented to the grand jury is also secret (at least the county attorney is not allowed to reveal it), Freeman can avoid disclosing what evidence he (or his prosecutors) presented. He therefore gets to hide behind a legal wall that he has chosen to erect.
The straightfoward, honest and open way to handle the matter would be for Freeman to just decide himself whether or not to charge any police officers (like he would do in any other case), share the evidence developed and explain his interpretation. Members of the public could then make their evaluations. Given the smoke-and-mirror approach of the grand jury process, it is understandable and arguably justifiable to conclude that the Feeman and the system are engaged in a cover-up. I personally have not way of knowing what happened, and it is an open question how much we can ever find out since the only witness other than the cops is dead. However, thanks to Freeman, we don’t get to find out what there is to know.
Jordan S. Kushner
From: Ed Felien Date: 4:17pm, Sept 20
Jordan is, of course, correct when he says a Grand Jury is just political cover for a County Attorney when he doesn’t want to take the heat for not prosecuting the police.
This is not over!
The police report is on the StarTribune website: http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/224517981.html and is more detailed than the report that appeared in the print edition of this morning’s paper, but many serious questions remain:
First, why did the officers go down into a dark basement believing a suspect was down there? What was the rush? Was the suspect going to escape? How? Why didn’t they turn on the lights? Is this normal police procedure? It seems like a disaster waiting to happen, and it seems as if maybe the police were hyper-adrenalated.
Second, we need to see the medical examiner’s report, which cannot be made public without the consent of the next of kin. We can assume that if there is a wrongful death suit, which now seems probable, the medical examiner’s report will be made public at the trial. Serious questions remain about the actual wounds on Terrance Franklin. Spokesman-Recorder reporter Mel Reeves has said that someone who had seen the body said Franklin was shot five times in the back of the head and twice in his back. It is hard to visualize how that might have happened. The police report doesn’t tell us the position of Franklin’s body at the time he was shot.
The delays and obfuscations do not do the Police Department or the Office of the County Attorney any credit. It would help if the Police Department did an actual reenactment to dispell the disbelief that is settling over this incident.