Texas DA changes grand jury policy for officer shootings
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The district attorney in Austin says she won’t pursue possible charges against local police officers involved in three shootings because of a change in how her office handles such cases.
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said she’ll only take cases to grand juries if she believes a shooting was unlawful or if the facts about what happened are in dispute, the Austin American-Statesman reported . The policy change is meant to expedite the resolution of cases.
Former District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg took all lethal-force cases to grand jury. Travis County grand juries have seen dozens of cases regarding police officers using deadly force, but jurors have only indicted one officer in the past decade.
Prosecutors in Moore’s office said they decided not to pursue a case against officers involved in the three recent shootings after “thorough factual and legal analysis.”
Officers often have to wait months to testify before a grand jury, according to police officials. And community groups, including the local chapter of the NAACP, have said prosecutors should focus on possible cases of officer misconduct instead of taking every case to a grand jury.
“We have already agreed in our community, no matter whether they go forward or not, we have a responsibility as a civil rights organization to examine, critically, her basis for not going forward,” said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP. “Clearly, I think there are certain cases that should not go, but we are going to look for a balance.”
Prosecutors are currently reviewing how to handle nine other police shooting cases, said Dexter Gilford, who leads the Civil Rights Division at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The policy change doesn’t affect civil lawsuits or investigations of whether officers violated department policy.
Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com