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Tamir Rice Independent Investigation Report Arguments

As I indicated in a previous chapter, attorneys routinely develop persuasive messages dealing with cases with which they are involved. Legal cases, especially involving criminal activity, involve arguments over several items. A case that is still under investigation and has yet to be presented to the grand jury (as of the date of the writing of this chapter) involves a white police officer shooting a 12-year old African-American boy. I present analysis of a possible way of developing a persuasive message for both sides related to the debate over an investigation report that has drawn criticism from the defense team.

Description of Case

In November of 2014, police in Cleveland, Ohio received a 911 call from an observer who saw a male playing with a gun near a playground in a public recreation center. According to various reports, the person who called 911 indicated that the gun was probably “fake;” though, he never ascertained whether it was real or fake. This information was not provided to the police who responded. Two police officers in a single vehicle responded to the scene and immediately observed the male walking around a gazebo. They observed the male place a gun in his waistband, and as they pulled up to the immediate scene the male reached into his waistband. As the car slowed to a stop, but before it had stopped, one officer—Timothy Loehmann—shot the male twice in the torso at close range. The male—Tamir Rice—died the next day of his injuries.

The officer is White, and the male victim is African-American, and the shooting occurred within the context of a national debate about police shootings of African-Americans and unwarranted use of force. The case drew national attention in the United States because of this connection and the fact that the gun was fake. In effect, Mr. Rice was unarmed when the officer shot him. In addition to the “White officer—African American victim” dynamics, much of the debate and investigations following the shooting focused on how quickly Officer Loehmann used deadly force and the general inability to verify whether Rice’s gun was real or fake. As of the writing of this chapter, an investigation resulted in no criminal charges being presented. Public debate about the incident continues and litigation involving a civil claim of wrongful death continues.

I present for analysis competing claims of the objectivity of a particular “independent” investigation report the prosecution in the criminal case sought and expected to present to the grand jury for consideration. The authors of the report have background in legal studies and police work, and they found that Officer Loehmann acted reasonably in the situation. Mr. Rice’s family’s attorney disputes their objectivity and challenged the report as “independent.” Prosecutors responded to that claim by defending the report as independent and the authors as objective. These competing claims represent opposing perceptions of a single item that could be used in a trial or litigation, and attorneys provided their reasoning for their assertion. I analyze the claims and reasoning within the model’s framework because attributes of the claims are supported by video of the shooting and video shortly before and after the shooting occurred. Various people have offered conflicting perceptions of what is happening in the videos. Generally, the officers claim that they ordered Rice three times to put his hands up after getting out of the car, but the video does not show that; officers claim they observed Rice reaching for a gun in his waistband and pulling it out before shooting him; the video shows him grabbing his shirt to show police the gun in his waistband; he is not holding a gun when he falls to the ground after being shot.

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