COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Protesters converge on Columbus City Hall Monday seeking answers for several demand in the wake of police involved shooting deaths of Henry Green and Tyre King.
One of those demands calls for an independent investigation or prosecutor.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien says his office has handled police involved shooting cases the same way for decades.
O’Brien says, “Because of community concerns over these kinds of cases, our office has had a policy for 20 plus years of automatically presenting all cases involving a fatal shooting to the grand jury.”
Each grand jury is made up of nine county residents. These grand jurors hear all the evidence presented by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor will utilize information from the police investigation as well as other information they obtain independently. This includes allowing the deceased person’s family to testify or including witnesses who originally felt uncomfortable talking to police.
O’Brien explains, “We ask the family of the deceased if they have any witnesses the police haven’t interviewed as we will have interviewed. They can testify before the grand jury.”
Columbus City Council President Zach Klein saw last week’s protest at City Hall first hand. He is running against O’Brien in November. Klein says he is reform minded and open to changes with how the prosecutor’s office handles police involved shooting death cases.
Klein says, “I am open to change, but I am looking at best practices to figure out how you can balance electoral accountability, but at the same time recognizing there could be an inherent conflict.”
Klein says all police involved shooting death cases, including Ty’re King or Henry Green, deserve transparency.
Klein says reform could help accomplish greater goals, “Develop a model that builds faith in the criminal justice system via the prosecutor’s office.”
O’Brien has also called for transparency, going as far as recommending the typically secret grand jury transcripts be publicly released.
He explains, “Understanding the need for transparency, I recommended that all the grand jury proceedings [transcripts] be released at the conclusion of a police shooting case.” This recommendation came while sitting on the Governor Kasich’s Community Police Relations Collaborative.
The Columbus branch of the NAACP has called for the U.S. Justice Department’s involvement in the King and Green Cases. Both O’Brien and Klein welcome their involvement and oversight.