The announcement today by the City of Cleveland that the officers involved in the shooting death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice have been disciplined has only added insult to the pain and grief of the Rice family. Although pleased with the termination of Officer Timothy Loehmann, the decision says nothing about his unlawful actions in shooting young Tamir without cause or justification. Loehmann was terminated not for causing Tamir’s death but rather for lying on his employment application.
The Rice family is disheartened by the decision to suspend Officer Frank Garmback for a mere 10 days where it has been determined that he failed to employ proper tactics when he drove directly up to Tamir thus contributing to the chain of events that resulted in Tamir’s shooting.
Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, described the discipline as “deeply disappointing. I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place—but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application. And Garmback should be fired too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir. As we continue to grieve for Tamir, I hope this is a call for all of us to build stronger communities together.”
Tamir’s family is represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, together with William Mills of FirmEquity and Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm LLC.
On February 3, 2017, after a six year odyssey through the criminal justice system, Cesar Villavicencio was acquitted of murder and released from custody. ECBA partner Earl Ward was able to demonstrate to the jury that the medical examiner’s conclusion that the deceased died from strangulation was wrong and, further, that the death was caused by a drug overdose.
In January 2016 Jaime DeJesus, who was serving a 20-year sentence for assault in the first degree, had his conviction overturned by the First Department appellate court. At the request of his appellate attorneys, who believed in his innocence, ECBA agreed to handle his retrial. After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated for less than three hours and acquitted Mr. DeJesus of all charges. ECBA partners Earl Ward and Elizabeth Saylor tried the case.
The City of New York has agreed to pay $6 million to Derrick Deacon, a man who spent over twenty years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Deacon was initially convicted in 1989 as the result of egregious misconduct by law enforcement and prosecutors. After new evidence came to light showing that Mr. Deacon was not the perpetrator, he was granted a retrial and acquitted in minutes. This suit, filed after his acquittal, challenged the official misconduct used to initially convict Mr. Deacon. The New York Daily News covered the settlement here.
After a three-week trial, Oral Nicholas Hillary was acquitted of the 2011 murder of Garrett Phillips, a 12 year old resident of Potsdam, New York.
Hillary’s legal team, led by ECBA partner Earl S. Ward and co-counsel Norman Siegel, argued that the lack of evidence against Mr. Hillary mandated that he be acquitted of all charges. As Mr. Ward stated in his closing argument, “There is absolutely no direct evidence tying Mr. Hillary to this crime. Nick Hillary is not the type of person that would walk into a room, put his hands around the neck of a child and strangle him, kill that child. That is not Nick Hillary.” Judge Felix J. Cantena agreed, finding Mr. Hillary not guilty of all charges.
A New York judge rejected prosecutors’ attempts to use controversial DNA methods in the upcoming murder trial of Oral Nicholas Hillary, who is represented by ECBA attorney Earl Ward and co-counsel Normal Siegel. The August 26 decision is a significant victory for Mr. Hillary, who has maintained his innocence in the 2011 murder of a 12-year-old boy in upstate New York.
Earlier this year, prosecutors stated their intention to use a computer program known as STRmix to analyze a miniscule scraping from the victim’s fingernails, even though previous attempts to link Mr. Hillary’s DNA to the victim were unsuccessful. Mr. Ward and the defense team challenged the reliability of STRmix at two hearings held in July and August. Judge Felix J. Catena for St. Lawrence County Court agreed with the defense that the program lacked validation and ruled that its results are inadmissible.
The trial is scheduled to begin on September 6 in Canton, New York.
ECBA partner Earl S. Ward appeared on a panel at Fordham Law School to discuss wrongful convictions. The panelists discussed the problems with eye witness testimony, Brady material, and prosecutorial discretion. Earl has successfully represented many people challenging their convictions. Most recently, he helped secure over $30 million from New York State and New York City for three men who were convicted of a murder they did not commit. Two of the men spent 18 years in prison; the third was incarcerated for over 12 years. Read more about the Firm’s wrongful conviction work here.
On April 25, 2016, the City of Cleveland agreed to a $6 million payment to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit that arose from the tragic death of Tamir Rice. This settlement has received extensive coverage in the national and local press.
The City of Cleveland has agreed to payment of $6 million to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit involving the tragic death of Tamir Rice. Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life. Tamir was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police — a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise.
In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back. His unnecessary and premature death leaves a gaping hole for those who knew and loved him that can never be filled.
Regrettably, Tamir’s death is not an isolated event. The problem of police violence, especially in communities of color, is a crisis plaguing our nation. It is the sincere hope of the Rice family that Tamir’s death will stimulate a movement for genuine change in our society and our nation’s policing so that no family ever has to suffer a tragedy such as this again.