COLUMBUS— Yesterday, State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) introduced Senate Bill 258, which will require the Ohio Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and bring forth charges in cases involving officer use of lethal force against an unarmed suspect. State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D - Columbus) is cosponsoring the bill.  

“Notable grand jury hearings have grown to represent a tool for faux justice, appeasing the public’s cry for an investigation, while protecting the officer from a real prosecution,” said Senator Williams. “Senator Tavares and I believe this legislation offers a unique opportunity for law enforcement and local prosecutors to support an independent approach to how we administer justice in these cases.” 

Though grand jury cases of officer use of lethal force against unarmed suspects are rare, when they do occur, the public often expresses great uncertainty and outrage towards the process and those investigating. These cases, usually tried by local county prosecutors, do not alleviate the public’s uncertainty. In Ohio, we have seen this type of situation occur more than most other states; only California (17), Florida (8), and Texas (6) had more officer use of lethal force against unarmed suspect cases than Ohio’s 5 in 2015.

If Senate Bill 258 becomes law, it will represent a change similar to the one mandated by an Executive Order in the state of New York by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo declared all cases that involve use of lethal force against an unarmed suspect must be reviewed and investigated by the state’s Attorney General, and not the local prosecutor. S.B. 258 also resembles legislation that was passed in the New York State Assembly last year concerning use of lethal force cases.

“In the wake of high profile grand jury cases, most resulting in no indictments, public trust in the entire justice system is shaken,” said Senator Williams. “The public is pleading for accountability. The inherit bias that is present between an officer and the local prosecutor will be addressed by Senate Bill 258.”

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