AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — The eyes of Northeast Ohio will be on Akron on Monday, when selection begins of a special grand jury to consider evidence in the June 2022 deadly shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker by eight Akron police officers.
During a briefing on Facebook on Friday, the chief prosecutor for the city of Akron pointed out that the grand jury will not determine guilt or innocence, and will have a lower standard of proof than a jury in a criminal trial.
“The purpose of the grand jury is to determine if sufficient probable cause exists to charge a person or persons with a particular offense or offenses,” said Chief Prosecutor Craig Morgan.
The nine members of the grand jury will consider evidence presented by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which conducted a nine-month investigation of the Jayland Walker shooting. The panel will consider police video and audio from the morning of the shooting, and hear testimony from witnesses that could include the eight officers.
“If a defendant wishes to testify before a grand jury, they do it without their attorney,” said Morgan.
The panel must then decide if the officers should face criminal charges, and it would take seven of the nine members of the grand jury to agree there is probable cause for charges to be filed.
“‘True Bill’, or indictment, means that an individual has been charged and now begins the traditional criminal justice process against that individual, and ‘No Bill’ means the person is not charged, and the grand jurors did not find sufficient probable cause, and they are discharged from any further criminal culpability,” said Morgan.
Prosecutors are expected to take about a week to present evidence, but no one can say how long it will take the grand jury to reach a decision. The city of Akron is already preparing for public reaction and protest, by putting up barriers and boarding up windows. The city is also providing a link with important information on AkronUpdates.com, which includes details on what’s called a “demonstration zone.”
“We understand that folks may want to demonstrate elsewhere. We understand some may want to march. People have a First Amendment right to protest in designated areas and outside of them. As long as that’s done non-violently, in a peaceful way, we will support those rights,” said Akron Chief Communications Officer Stephanie Marsh.
On Friday afternoon, city officials announced that courtrooms in Akron Municipal Court will be closed to the public starting on Monday, and that arraignments will be held remotely.