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No grand jury decision is step towards victory in fight for justice for Jamar Clark

By Jess Sundin |
March 16, 2016
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Minneapolis, MN - An important victory came today, March 16, in the fight for justice for Jamar Clark, who was killed by Minneapolis police in November. For months, the family and community have been fighting for prosecution of those police, and saying no to the grand jury that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman had said he would use to bring charges in the case. Today, Freeman announced that he has decided not to send this case to the grand jury, and to end the use of grand juries in police shootings in the county.

In a statement to the media today, Freeman credited this change of course to concerns he’s heard from people about the Clark case. After a month of weekly protests at his office, thousands of calls to his office, testimony at county commissioners meetings and an open letter from Jamar Clark’s parents, he said, “I concluded that the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome. So, at this point in time, and in a democracy where we continually strive to make our systems fairer, more just and more accountable, we in Hennepin County will not use the grand jury in the Jamar Clark case.”

Brettina Davis of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar said, “Every day we were at Freeman's office asking for justice. The reason we continued is because we believe in a world where there is justice, where if you commit a crime you go to court have a chance to defend yourself just like everyone else. The Coalition has been fighting the fight every week. No breaks and no vacations when it comes to justice. The fight is not over, but we should celebrate the small victories and fight for the large ones.”

Freeman also said he will no longer use grand juries in police shooting cases in Hennepin County. Corydon Nillson, who has been coming out to the protests at Freeman’s office, explained the significance of this announcement, “In Minnesota, since the year 2000, there have been over 140 deaths at the hands of officers. The grand jury process has returned zero indictments. Our stance has been that the grand jury process is where justice goes to die. We have been showing up at his office the last five weeks, urging him to forego the process. His office had said that he was going to use the grand jury until today. This is monumental for this case. He also followed California's lead and decided to not use the grand jury process when it comes to police-involved shootings in Hennepin County. The grand jury process rarely indicts officers, so this is a huge deal!”

The community continues to demand prosecution of police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, who are back at work despite their responsibility in Clark’s death. Several witnesses have shared accounts of the night, with Clark on the ground and handcuffed before he was shot. Despite this, Freeman said, “I will make the factual determination whether there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge against the police officers in the tragic death of Jamar Clark.”

The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar will hold a public meeting to update the community and organize next steps in the fight for justice for Jamar Clark. The meeting will take place on Saturday, March 19 at noon at the Urban Jerusalem Church, 1823 Emerson Avenue N, Minneapolis.

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