Don’t expect much from that Uvalde grand jury

I mean, I wasn’t, but in case you were, don’t.

After more than a year of pressure to file criminal charges against some of the Texas law enforcement officers responsible for the botched response to the Robb Elementary School shooting, local prosecutor Christina Mitchell last month convened a grand jury to investigate.

But even after that monthslong review is complete, law enforcement officers may not face criminal charges, legal experts say. That’s because police officers are almost never criminally prosecuted — and charges for failing to act are even more rare.

Grand jury proceedings in Texas are kept secret and it’s not typically known how cases are presented to jurors who decide whether there’s enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime or proceed to a trial.

It’s unclear whether Uvalde’s District Attorney plans to present evidence to grand jurors that some victims would have survived had medical responders started treatment earlier. Hundreds of officers who responded to the shooting waited 77 minutes to breach the classrooms, where a gunman used an AR-15 rifle to indiscriminately shoot students and teachers in two adjoining fourth-grade classrooms. Nineteen students and two teachers died in the May 24, 2022 shooting.

The Texas Rangers in August 2022 asked Dr. Mark Escott, medical director for Texas Department of Public Safety and chief medical officer for the city of Austin, to look into the injuries of the victims and determine whether any victims could have survived. Four of the victims are known to have had heartbeats when they were rescued from the classrooms.

But one year later, Mitchell’s office told Escott it was “moving in a different direction” and no longer wanted the analysis to be performed.

“It’s unclear to me why they would not want an analysis such as this done,” Escott said.

Escott said he was never given access to the autopsy reports or hospital and EMS records. Based on the limited records he did review, he believes at least one individual may have survived had police officers intervened earlier.


Even though police training instructs officers to confront a shooter, hundreds of officers responding to Robb Elementary waited over an hour to confront the gunman

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that officers do not have a constitutional “duty to protect,” even if they have been trained to do so. And even if the Uvalde grand jury decides to indict officers, prosecutors would then have the difficult burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers were under a specific legal duty to act and that in failing to act they caused a specific harm.

“There’s a big difference between what is morally right and what the law actually requires,” said Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law and former police officer. “I’d be very surprised if there was a straightforward path to criminal prosecution.”

See here for some background. As I said back then, charging a couple of law enforcement officers, even the likes of Pete Arredondo, doesn’t get at any root causes here. One can plausibly argue that holding these people legally accountable may have the effect of ensuring that the next batch of cops who encounter an active shooter situation will do a better job of following accepted best practices, and that may in turn lead to a less bad outcome. But honestly, until we start to do something to address why there are so many mass shootings in the first place, we’re not getting anywhere.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Crime and Punishment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.