ORLANDO, Fla. – In a significant shift of policy, Ninth Circuit state attorney Andrew Bain, appointed by the governor, has announced that grand juries will now hold the authority to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against law enforcement officers involved in use of force incidents. This change comes just a month into Bain’s tenure and marks a departure from previous practices.
One noteworthy case that awaits a decision from Bain’s office is the determination of charges to be filed against multiple Osceola County sheriff’s deputies who were involved in a fatal shooting at a Target store in April 2022. The incident gained attention when the legal representative for the family of the deceased, a 20-year-old, presented evidence suggesting that the deputies unleashed their firearms in what could, at most, be classified as a misdemeanor retail theft case. The matter had been under active investigation by the previous state attorney, Monique Worrell, before she was relieved of her duties.
Renowned attorney Mark NeJame expressed his anticipation for a thorough review of the evidence by a grand jury. NeJame emphasized the importance of ensuring the protection of the public and safeguarding their welfare. He also highlighted the dedication and sacrifice of the majority of law enforcement officers in Florida, who often work tirelessly and put their lives on the line for the betterment of their communities. NeJame believes that subjecting future use of force incidents to the scrutiny of a public jury may influence the behavior of those who might otherwise abuse their authority or disregard the law.
NeJame stated, “For those who would disgrace the badge, for those who would rather break the law than follow the law, this will put them under scrutiny.” His remarks underscore the potential transformative impact of the new policy, as it increases accountability and strengthens the deterrent effect on law enforcement personnel who might contemplate misconduct.
Bain assured the public that additional policy updates, including changes to the office’s diversion program, will be forthcoming. These updates are expected to further enhance the state attorney’s approach to handling various cases, reflecting a commitment to fairness and justice within the criminal justice system in the Ninth Circuit.
As this new policy initiative takes hold, legal experts and community members will be closely observing its implementation and its effects on the processes surrounding use of force incidents. The decision to empower grand juries as the ultimate arbiters of criminal charges against officers represents a profound adjustment in the criminal justice landscape, a step intended to foster transparency, accountability, and public trust.
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