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Jayland Walker death investigation: Akron prosecutor explains grand jury process

Walker was shot and killed last June when eight Akron police officers fired dozens of rounds amid an overnight chase.

AKRON, Ohio — With a grand jury seated in Akron to hear evidence in the police-involved shooting death of Jayland Walker, the city’s chief prosecutor, Craig Morgan, held a press conference earlier this month to “explain the grand jury process and answer questions.”

The grand jury process comes more than nine months after Walker was shot and killed late last June as eight Akron police officers fired dozens of rounds amid an overnight chase. Police say Walker had fired a shot at one point during a vehicle pursuit, but was unarmed at the time officers opened fire when the chase continued on foot. A gun was later found in Walker's vehicle, according to police.

Below we break down different portions of Morgan's press conference to help explain the grand jury process.

What is the grand jury?

“A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence," Morgan explained in Friday's press conference, which you can watch in full below. "The purpose of the grand jury is to determine whether sufficient probable cause exists to charge a person or persons with a particular offense or offenses. If the grand jury determines that there’s sufficient probable cause to charge an individual with an offense, that formalizes the complaint into an indictment, and it starts the traditional criminal justice process.”

How is a grand jury picked?

He explained the selection process for seating a grand jury is "much like a lottery system."

“Every citizen who is at least 18 years of age, a resident of Summit County and registered to vote, is a potential grand juror," he continued.

Presenting evidence

“The representatives from the Attorney General’s Office plan to take a week to present the evidence in the Jayland Walker case," Morgan said. "What would that evidence look like? It’s going to be testimonial. Witnesses will testify. Various forms of electronic evidence, such as video, body-worn camera images, pictures and even audio. It could be forensic evidence and forensic experts may even testify as well."

How a grand jury makes their decision

“A trial jury requires a unanimous vote," Morgan said. "That means all the jurors must vote if somebody is guilty or not guilty. That is not the case for a grand jury. In a grand jury, nine people will hear the matter. It requires seven of nine people to agree that there’s probable cause to charge somebody.”

True bill vs. no bill

“A true bill means that a person has been indicted, and that there is now formal felony charges pending against a person or persons," he explained. "What would happen next is the traditional criminal justice process. That person would then be arraigned before a judge. There would be various pretrial conferences where a prosecutor and a defense attorney determine what’s going to happen in the case. Is the individual going to resolve the matter and plead guilty? Is the individual going to want their trial?”

A no bill, however, means the grand jurors did not find sufficient probable cause to charge a person with a particular offense. 

“It represents a closure of the criminal matter against that individual. There’s certainly other things that may happen, but that person isn’t going to be subject to any further criminal culpability.”

What to expect from the outcome

“This is not an all-or-nothing decision," Morgan said. "Yes, all eight officers could be indicted and charged with some offense or offenses. Vice versa, all eight officers could be no billed and all discharged from any further criminal culpability. There could also be a combination of those two. Hypothetically, five officers could be indicted or true billed and charged. Three officers could be no billed.”

The grand jury process comes less than two weeks after the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) announced it had completed its investigation of the deadly shooting.

The city, meanwhile, has also relaunched its Akron Updates site, which will provide the following details:

  • Grand jury explanation and information
  • Mental health resources
  • Information on upcoming demonstration zone
  • Real-time road closure information
  • Press conference(s) and releases
  • Critical, real-time downtown safety updates
  • Social media links
  • Akron Police Department transparency hub

"The City of Akron is dedicated to keeping our residents and business owners aware of critical safety updates and providing accurate news and information surrounding the grand jury decision in the officer-involved shooting of Jayland Walker," the site declares.

The officers involved in the shooting have not yet been identified. They have since returned to work in an "administrative capacity" after being placed on leave for more than three months.

The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office said Walker had 46 entrance / graze wounds as a result of the shooting, which were listed as follows:

  • 17 gunshot wounds injured the pelvis and upper legs, causing internal injury to the right iliac artery (a major artery going to the leg), the bladder and fractures to the pelvis and both upper leg bones (femurs).
  • 15 gunshot wounds injured the torso, and caused internal injury to his heart, lungs, liver, spleen, left kidney, intestines and multiple ribs.
  • One bullet struck the face and fractured the jaw.
  • Eight gunshot wounds injured the arms and right hand.
  • Five gunshot wounds injured the knees, right lower leg and right foot.

During his final State of the City address last month, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan offered a few comments regarding the Walker case.

“There is no doubt in the days and weeks ahead, this community will need to trust each other more than we ever have as the independent investigations into the death of Jayland Walker become public and the grand jury makes a decision," he said. "I can tell you, the conversations have remained ongoing between my office and leaders in the community since Jayland’s death – and I thank those who have both led those conversations and, most importantly, those who have listened because we have to do both in times like these.”

You can watch Mayor Horrigan's comments in the video below:

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