July 18th, 2012
Grand Jury indicts no officers in shooting death of Lembhard
A memorial constructed in honor of Michael Lembhard shortly after he was killed in a police-involved shooting earlier this year. The Orange County Grand Jury recently failed to indict any police officers in the shooting death.
The following is a statement from Michael Sussman, Esq. on behalf of the Lembhard family:
Today, the Lembhard family of Newburgh mourns the failure of justice. The Orange County Grand Jury has failed to indict any police officer in the shooting death of Michael Lembhard.
While asserting that the Grand Jury proceeding is held secret, the DA’s office released an account of the incident derived from the Grand Jury which is at stark variance with that provided by the two adult family members who were in the house and the only two known civilian earwitnesses.
We know the following:
• In initial police accounts, the police officers claimed they had engaged in a foot chase of Michael Lembhard. From the outset, we told the world that Michael was on his porch and went into his sister’s house to be followed by the police. We now know that to be true.
• The DA’s statement claims that Michael’s autopsy showed “substantial” amounts of marijuana. We know this is not true.
• The DA’s statement claims that Police Officer Cardinale shot from close range at Michael Lembhard after much discussion in the house. However, the civilian earwitnesses say there was no such discussion, no screaming “Kill me” and no yelling ”Knife” as the DA’s report claims.
• The DA’s report says a second officer Henderson shot Michael in his back eight times as Michael went toward Officer Cardinale. It does not explain why the other officers did not shoot if Cardinale was in such mortal danger.
• The DA’s report claims that one officer, Guidice, had a taser but initially did not use it because he was afraid using it might cause Michael to slit his throat. This does not explain why he failed to deploy the taser as Michael was approaching Police Officer Cardinale. At that point, by the police officers’ accounts, this danger had passed and the officer with the taser Guidice still did not use his taser. The report does not explain why not.
The District Attorney has selectively leaked information from the Grand Jury proceedings. I believe that he should make available all testimony provided the Grand Jury so that all with interest can access it, particularly as we proceed in more transparent civil litigation which, I believe, will allow the family to confront the police version of events. I intend to immediately FOIA all DA records which form the basis of the public statement issued.
In any trial, a jury is instructed not to form conclusions until all the evidence has been heard. I say the same thing today - the adversarial process in this case is now really set to begin. The jury of public opinion should withhold judgment until we are able to present our case.
These events again expose the one-sided nature of Grand Juries. From its press release, it is clear the DA’s office sided with the police. I do not find this surprising. I have said from the beginning there is a strong and inherent institutional connection between the police and the DA’s office. Those words were vindicated again today, sadly for the interests of our community.