Indy awaits verdict of Dreasjon Reed grand jury

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INDIANAPOLIS– The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), Indiana State Police (ISP) and the Indiana National Guard are on standby in anticipation of a conclusion of the Special Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the fatal shooting of Dreasjon Reed by an IMPD officer last spring.

Officer Dejoure Mercer said that Reed shot at him during a foot chase in the 6200 block of North Michigan Road on May 6 before the patrolman returned fire, killing the 21-year-old man.

Special Prosecutor Rosemary Khoury of Madison County was assigned the case in early June and on August 21 requested a grand jury to hear the evidence.

When asked for a statement in anticipation of the conclusion of the grand jury’s work, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office issued the following release:

While there have been indications that the grand jury review of the police action shooting involving Dreasjon Reed is set to conclude this week, Special Prosecutor Khoury has not been in contact with the mayor’s office. The grand jury investigation is an independent process, designed to ensure that a thorough review of the incident can occur. While we won’t speak for the Special Prosecutor, I think it is reasonable to assume that conversations between the mayor’s office and Special Prosecutor Khoury could jeopardize the integrity of this effort or lead to the perception of undue influence in the proceedings.

This morning Mayor Hogsett met with IMPD command staff and administration leadership to review operational plans for large-scale public gatherings in downtown Indianapolis. This work has been ongoing, and the Mayor has personally convened multiple meetings of command staff in recent weeks.

In addition, over the last several weeks, IMPD command staff has regularly briefed downtown stakeholder groups about updates to the department’s tactical plans, as well as localized information on events ranging from post-election unrest to potential protests. This morning, Mayor Hogsett and members of IMPD command staff convened a call with BOMA and the Restaurant and Lodging Association that included a cross-section of restaurateurs, hotel managers, and property owners – a meeting meant to ensure that they are well apprised of continued efforts to monitor events and plan for possible gatherings.

Mayor Hogsett is committed to ensuring that all Indianapolis residents living, working, or exercising their first amendment right downtown, can do so safely and peacefully.

Jack Crawford served as the Lake County Prosecutor for twelve years, presenting an estimated 100 grand jury cases, with perhaps twenty of them regarding officer involved shootings.

“The prosecutor decides what witnesses will testify, the prosecutor decides what evidence the grand jury will hear. You would think automatically the grand jury would hear all the evidence but that’s not necessarily so. Prosecutors control the entire process and oftentimes they will feed to a grand jury what they think is important. Its not always what the public thinks is important,” Crawford said.

Black Lives Matter has already tweeted out a message that it would satisfied with nothing less than criminal charges leveled against Mercer and the forfeiture of his pension and job.

“When the grand jury deliberates, the prosecutor does have to leave the room and allow them the liberty to decide it on their own,” said Crawford. “It’s either a “Bill of Indictment” or a “No Bill.” No Bill means they couldn’t get five people to decide to bring charges, there’s only six people on an Indiana grand jury, five of them must agree to bring charges.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that officers are protected in civil litigation when sued for actions taken in the line of duty.

In Graham v. Connor, the high court held that the standard of objective reasonableness, that is, was the officer’s response reasonable considering the facts that were known to him or her at the time, should determine if the officer can be held civilly liable for said actions.

Officers rely on that standard when carrying out their duties, and Crawford said he always advised grand jurors of that precedent when they considered an officer involved shooting case.

“The prosecutor should give the grand jury a review of relevant Supreme Court case law on this question: Ehen can an officer use deadly force to protect himself or herself?” said Crawford. “Remember, a grand jury proceeding is not a trial. It’s a determination of probable cause to bring charges.”

Defense Attorney John Tompkins has represented clients who were targets of a grand jury.

“What the Supreme Court has said about officers using lethal force in civil cases does not directly impact criminal prosecutions or offer defendants and defense attorneys an avenue to try to defend against a criminal charge,” said Tompkins. “The Supreme Court has never said, or a grand jury should be told, that civil immunity or lack of civil liability is a defense to a crime.”

Mindful of the recent release of grand jury transcripts in the Breonna Taylor investigation in Louisville, the attorneys disagree on whether the secretive testimony or statements of the Reed grand jury should be revealed.

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