Why Jamar Clark's case didn't go to a grand jury

In March of last year, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he would be the one to review the shooting of Jamar Clark, and decide whether or not to charge the officers involved. He ultimately did not charge the officers.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announces charges against four people involved in the Black Lives Matter protest shooting at the 4th Precinct on Nov. 23, 2015. (Jackson Forderer for MPR News)
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

He wanted someone held accountable for the decision, even if it was him. A grand jury is anonymous, and the process by which they make their decision is private.

"The principal problem with grand juries is the lack of transparency and lack of accountability," said Freeman.

Freeman joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to discuss criminal justice reform.

He emphasized that now more than ever citizens require law enforcement and the judicial system be straightforward with their decisions to arrest, charge, and prosecute individuals.

"I think the amount of disclosure [in the Jamar Clark case] was unprecedented..and I think it helped people understand why I made the decision I did," said Freeman.

Freeman also discussed racial disparities in our criminal justice system—why do we see more people of color in our prisons?

"It's very difficult to answer that question," said Freeman. "We need to be aware of the inequities that exist in society in terms of education, economic opportunity, jobs. If a person doesn't have much hope in society they're much less likely to obey the laws."

Because of the Jamar Clark and Philando Castille shootings, deescalation is on the minds of citizens as well as the police. Freeman said that, "we need more and better police training," when asked about deescalation.

"We ought to do state-wide training...on deescalation, on implicit bias, on alternatives to use of deadly force," he added.

The conversation then turned to Freeman's recent decision to not charge ten University of Minnesota students with sexual assault.

The students were reprimanded by the institution, but Freeman said burden of proof is much higher for prosecution.

When asked if that burden prevents some victims from seeking charges Freeman said that many sexual assaults are successfully prosecuted.

"Going to trial as a victim of sexual assault is very hard and takes great courage," said Freeman. "But sometimes that's exactly what's needed to stop a sexual perpetrator."

This conversation is the fourth in a series on criminal justice. Throughout the month of January, MPR News with Kerri Miller will host discussions on different facets of the justice system. Part 1: The future of private prisons

To hear the entire conversation use the audio player above.