Cleveland Judge Calls Prosecutor's Approach In Tamir Rice Case "Unorthodox"

A judge who ruled that there was probable cause to bring charges against the officers involved in the Tamir Rice shooting says the case should have been brought to a criminal trial jury — and not just a grand jury.

CLEVELAND — A judge who notably ruled that there was probable cause to criminally charge the officers involved in the Tamir Rice shooting told BuzzFeed News Tuesday that he found County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s handling of the case odd.

“It certainly was unique, the way they went about it. It was unusual,” says Judge Ronald B. Adrine, a municipal court judge in Cleveland.

Shortly after McGinty announced that the grand jury had declined to bring charges against officers Frank Garmback and Tim Loehmann — the latter shot Rice on Nov. 22, 2014, because he thought the toy gun he was holding was real — he came under criticism for how he told the public he presented evidence in the case.

McGinty said during a news conference Monday that he recommended that the grand jury not charge the officers. He also said his team showed the grand jury how similar the toy gun looked to a real weapon.

In a statement released Monday, Rice’s family said the prosecutor's office "deliberately sabotaged the case, never advocating for my son, and acting instead like the police officers' defense attorney." The family added, "In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system."

Asked about the criticisms by the Rice family and others, Adrine told BuzzFeed News, “I'm not going to try and second guess him if that was the best way to do it, but it certainly was unorthodox.” He added that it was apparent to him that McGinty was being as transparent as he possibly could be, so nobody “could come back at him and say he withheld any evidence.”

The approach helped McGinty "establish that the conclusion that the grand jury came to was correct," Adrine said.

Still, Adrine added, "given the high level of angst that there has been, it's unfortunate that it didn't get a full public hearing," such as a criminal trial.

In July, after a public petition to arrest the officers, Adrine ruled that there was probable cause to bring charges against them.

The Ohio statute — which Adrine calls “kind of quirky” — that allowed him to review materials and make a ruling allows for citizens to call for a judge to review affidavits in any case and make a recommendation to a prosecutor.

Following Adrine’s ruling, McGinty said publicly that the judge’s findings would not alter his office’s approach in presenting the case to a grand jury. Adrine says he never heard from the prosecutor’s office after his ruling and has no idea if his ruling was presented to the grand jury.

"Obviously the fact that this is not going to go before a judge, before a jury...there are going to be lots of portions of the community that feel that this case was treated differently than if the police rolled up and someone killed one of the police officers," Adrine said.

On Monday, McGinty stressed that the death of Tamir Rice, while tragic, occurred due to an unfortunate confluence of a number of factors — including the fact that the 911 dispatcher did not relay to Loehmann and Garmback that Rice was believed to be a juvenile and the weapon he was playing with in the park that day was likely a toy.

"Given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and communications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police," McGinty said.

Still, Adrine believes that this was decision for a jury.

"If this had gone to trial and both officers were found not guilty, I would have been content with that. I think this is the kind of case that our justice system was meant to handle, "Adrine said.

"In any circumstance, it was a hard case to make, but it is a hard case that somebody should have tried to make."

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