This column was written two days before the announcement that Hennepin County would no longer use grand juries in police involved shootings, starting with the Jamar Clark case, as reported in the Star Tribune of March 16, 2016 (“Hennepin Co. will stop using grand juries in police shooting cases”). The announcement was postponed when Jamar Clark was killed. This original column has been adjusted accordingly.
The consequences of the musical chairs by the county and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) into the death of Jamar Clark continues. Our community’s concern should be to repair and rebuild institutional relations with integrity so that the goal of justice is not missed, regardless of how the investigation takes place.
A key question for the county attorney and BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension): What happens when the record of an eye witness interviewed in mid-November cannot be found, a witness who provided accurate information regarding the events of that early November 15, 2015 morning?
The witness to the death of Jamar Clark actually saw Mr. Clark’s struggle with two police officers that led to his death. The witness spoke with great detail and specificity. He became the subject of a vendetta by the BCA in order to destroy his integrity and, by extension, to undermine the investigation so the focus would be on Jamar Clark and not the officers. Both sides, BCA on one side, NAACP/BLM (Black Lives Matter) on the other, have a lot to answer for as I addressed in our January 28, 2016 column.
This was followed by the concerns expressed in our March 2, 2016 column. Those concerns have not been heeded. As a result, the Minneapolis NAACP and BLM/Minneapolis have allowed their impatience to risk discrediting their integrity and reputations by announcing to the world they were not only there at the very moment of Jamar Clark’s death but had videos of it. Their credibility relies on producing these videos and witnesses, without which they risk not being taken seriously in the future.
Although two county assistant district attorneys have been assigned to begin preparing the Clark case, we now know a grand jury will not be one of their options. Exercising patience with a nonviolent response model, and letting the law take its course first, to determine if other means of protest are felt necessary to remedy the situation, would have prevented them from putting their integrity and ability to influence in jeopardy.
The NAACP and BLM losing credibility would be a disaster for Minnesota’s institutions of justice, as they would no longer be counterweights to those standing in the way of inner city justice regarding education, job development and housing progress.
Regardless of the reviews and reports by the Star Tribune and other White newspapers, there continues to be no update on the status of the federal investigation into the death of Mr. Clark. Does this mean, as some suggest, that they are not seeking answers?
If so, that too would be very troubling. It would be best if the NAACP and BLM would seek to partner with the county attorney in insisting on a joint submission of the results of the investigation by the several investigative agencies.
The witness in question, in his statement and testimony, was so concise that a political decision was made to avoid the quandary in the justice system caused by the demonstrations. I know there are those circulating names, including of themselves, as having been live witnesses to the death of Mr. Clark. They need to step forward. The BLM and the NAACP receive significant financial support to hold what may be inaccurate positions regarding what happened.
Ironically, Mr. Freeman concluded, before Mr. Clark’s death, that the grand jury will no longer serve in police involved deaths: “Secrecy, lack of transparency and no direct accountability strikes us as problematic in a democratic society.”
This problem of transparency and accountability can be resolved if those making claims of being witness to Mr. Clark’s death come forward, as the county attorney has requested, to give their statements. Who are on the lists of those claiming to be witnesses? Who is really prepared to testify under oath? Testifying will clear the air and demonstrate transparency and accountability.
One of the things you learn in the arena of law is that when you are telling the truth you don’t have to be nervous. In order to more solidly pursue the quest of justice, the spirit of Jamar Clark hovers among us waiting for the testimony of those who actually saw him die.