AURORA, Colo. – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s announcement regarding a grand jury investigation into Elijah McClain’s death has been met with mixed reactions from community activists and attorneys.
While some see the investigation a step forward in the case, others view it as a way for Weiser to avoid directly charging the officers involved in McClain’s death.
“I don’t know that I am excited about the idea that there is a need for a grand jury when there could have been direct charges filed,” Aurora Community Activist Candice Bailey wrote in a comment on Facebook.
Bailey and other activists said their apprehension for grand jury determinations stems from other well known cases, like Breonna Taylor’s in Louisville in which grand jury members said the attorney general misrepresented evidence.
“The suspicion of the community of the grand jury system is well-founded. We have historically had district attorneys in the past who have abused the grand jury system and time and time again used the grand jury system to exonerate police officers,” said Civil Rights Attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai, partner at Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC.
Mohamedbhai said in cases involving police killings, a lot of district attorneys only present evidence from the point of view of the officer.
“In the grand jury system, the DAs can present whatever evidence they choose to present. And often times a district attorney will focus on the perspective of an officer in the grand jury system almost eliminating all other perspectives. An average citizen would never get that benefit,” Mohamedbhai said.
Mohamedbhai said there is also a lot of secrecy surrounding grand jury proceedings.
Denver7 reached out to Phil Weiser’s office to inquire about the case, but were told they did not want to comment and that jurors cannot speak on the case either.
Mohamedbhai said he knows Weiser personally, and thinks he’s a good attorney general. But his decision to use the grand jury in this case is problematic.
“I hope Phil Weiser uses this opportunity to increase transparency, change processes, and even potentially advocate for legislative change around the grand jury system so that district attorneys can’t use it free wheeling,” said Mohamedbhai.
In order to increase transparent, Mohamedbhai said he suggests Weiser release the grand jury transcripts and evidence so that the community can see what was and was not presented.
While the McClain family waits for the results of that investigation, and several others at the federal and local levels, the McClain family's attorney Mari Newman told the Denver Post, the results of the investigation will reveal a lot about Weiser's intentions.
“If the grand jury in Elijah McClain’s case doesn’t indict the officers and medics responsible for killing him, it will be because the attorney general’s office did not want charges to be brought,” Newman said. “That would be a grave injustice.”
Weiser has not said how long the grand jury investigation will take.