Grand Jury Police Indictments: Why Similar Cases Have Different Outcomes

- Lotze Mosley

There have been many contentious topics in the news recently, one of them being the indictments – or lack thereof – of police officers who have killed innocent and unarmed racial minorities.

It is peculiar to look at the individual cases, as some are strikingly similar. However, where one case garnered an indictment for the police officer involved, another did not.

The question is—why are some officers being indicted for their use of force against an unarmed racial minority while others are not?

Political Climate and Personal Aspirations

Oftentimes prosecutors will choose to bring charges against a police officer for political reasons. A prosecutor in a jurisdiction where he or she is seeking re-election may do things to placate a certain majority from which he or she is seeking a vote.

Some prosecutors also have ambitions of becoming players on the national stage. Because race relations are important today, a prosecutor with National aspirations may make a bigger or lesser deal out of what appears to be a racially charged killing, depending on to whom the prosecutor wishes to appeal

Police-Prosecution Relationship

Another big factor is the relationship between the local police department and the prosecutor’s office. In two high-profile cases where officers were indicted on simple misdemeanor charges for actions that resulted in deaths of another individual, the police departments were relatively small.

Prosecutors’ offices may be less likely to rely on a smaller police department for bigger prosecutions, and the handling of larger cases. So it may be less costly to “throw a smaller police department under the bus” so to speak.

The use of force by police against civilians, especially racial minorities, has garnered some well-deserved attention. However, results have not been uniform geographically when it comes to indicting police officers accused of committing these crimes. Each town and geographic region is different, and there are different factors that influence the outcomes of each grand jury indictment.

Lotze Mosley has been handling criminal cases for many years, and we know that being accused of a crime is especially difficult and stigmatizing. We went to help. For an initial consultation, we welcome your call to our office at (202) 393-0535.