SAVANNAH, Ga.—The family of Savannah police shooting victim Ricky Boyd announced in writing today that it will not testify during the civil grand jury presentment that the local district attorney has elected to employ this week. (See May 21st attachment).
“Ricky Boyd’s family has lost all confidence in the District Attorney’s handling of this case,” said civil rights lawyer William R. Claiborne. “Jameillah and the other family members do not wish to be revictimized by being forced to relive and recount the experience of Ricky’s death nor do they wish to participate in a process which has virtually no chance of producing an indictment charging those responsible for his death.”
Brad Schrade, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, reported on April 25th that District Attorney Meg Heap’s decision “to take the case to a civil grand jury signals that she will likely not seek an indictment against any of the officers.”
Ricky’s mother, Jameillah Smiley, chose to sit, protest, and pray on the first floor of the Chatham County Courthouse as the civil grand jury convened on Monday morning. Photo attached. “All I can do is hope and pray for justice, but my family is not going to take part in the cover up of my son’s death,” Ms. Smiley said.
In most criminal cases, a district attorney reviews the evidence and then makes a determination whether to bring an indictment before a criminal grand jury that decides if the person is charged and the case can proceed to a criminal trial.
A 2015 investigation of fatal police shootings by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that officers are almost never charged when they shoot and kill someone in the State of Georgia. One reason is prosecutors hardly ever bring an indictment forward for a grand jury to consider. Instead, they often opt for a civil grand jury which does not involve presentation of an indictment for jurors to consider. If the case is closed without any charges, the AJC reported that “district attorneys can lean on the grand jury decision as the reason, providing political cover for these elected law enforcement officials.”
The family of Ricky Boyd lost confidence in the DA’s handling of this case for a variety of reasons including the following facts that were laid out in a May 11th letter (see attachment):
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation failed to conduct a full, fair, and impartial investigation into Ricky’s death. The GBI never canvassed the neighborhood and failed to uncover a photograph showing the alleged B.B. lying in a neighbor’s yard approximately 43-feet away from where Mr. Boyd was shot and killed;
The D.A. decided not to bring a direct indictment and instead chose to utilize a civil review by the grand jury (O.C.G.A. 15-12-71(5)(B)) – a process which, to our knowledge, has never resulted in charges being brought against a law enforcement officer in the State of Georgia in a police shooting case;
Local authorities have selectively released pieces of information that put Mr. Boyd in a false light (calling him “the” suspect in the Balil Whitfield homicide investigation, saying that Mr. Boyd “initiated gunfire towards officers,” and releasing a close-up photograph of a B.B. gun lying on a bed of pine straw) while simultaneously refusing to release body-cam footage or to level with the public that the person who committed the Balil Whitfield murder is still at large; and
On May 7th, Jameillah Smiley, Mattie Smiley-Wallace, and Ms. Smiley’s minor children requested in writing to review the statements they made the morning of January 23rd as part of routine preparation for their grand jury testimony. The request was denied despite the fact that the DA’s office allows law enforcement officers and other witnesses to review police reports and statements prior to testifying before the grand jury.
The D.A.’s office is in possession of statements which Jameillah Smiley, Mattie Smiley Wallace, and Ms. Smiley’s minor children provided to law enforcement on the morning of January 23, 2018. The Claiborne Firm has notified the D.A. that these statements can be provided to the grand jury in lieu of live testimony from the family.
Ricky Boyd’s family received a subpoena to appear before the grand jury. But the D.A.’s office agreed in writing on May 15th not to enforce the subpoena via contempt proceedings (see May 15th email from chief district attorney Greg McConnell).
The civil grand jury in the Ricky Boyd police shooting case is set to meet today and tomorrow in Savannah, Georgia.
The Claiborne Firm, P.C.
410 E Bay St.
Savannah, GA 31401