Former Chatham Co. DA provides perspective on importance of evidence in grand jury cases

Former Chatham Co. DA provides perspective on importance of evidence in grand jury cases
(Source: WTOC)

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - It's been about a month since the Georgia Bureau of Investigation handed over the results of its months-long investigation into the officer-involved shooting in Savannah that resulted in the death of 20-year-old Ricky Boyd.

The Chatham County District Attorney's Office now has that information and will review all the evidence before presenting the case to a grand jury. Right now, they plan to present it by the end of this month.

Throughout this process, prosecutors are keeping the details of the investigation out of public view, including the police body camera video from the Jan. 23 shooting. Only Boyd's family has been allowed to view that evidence, despite recent calls for that video to be released to the public.

A long-serving district attorney in Chatham County, Spencer Lawton, explained to us that the whole point of the process is to insulate the details of the case from misinformation, political agendas, agitation by people who see an opportunity for profit or political advancement, or those just wanting to advance one side over the other.

"Better that it should be long than too quick. If you just snatch the first piece of evidence you find and run out on the street corner and declare who's guilty and who's innocent, you will inevitably do a grievous injustice," Lawton said.

Lawton made it clear he wasn't going to talk specifically about the Ricky Boyd case, but with his decades of experience as a lead prosecutor for the district, he was able to explain why investigations like officer-involved shootings can't be rushed. or have information leaked to the public before it gets to the grand jury.

"People take these things seriously, and they should. There's no question about that, but it's the job of the prosecutor to be sure that the rules are applied the way the rules are supposed to be applied, the way the law requires, and not change the rules of the game depending on which side happens to be the loudest, or which side is the most concerned, or which side has the most money or the most lawyers or the most media attention, or you name it," Lawton said.

Boyd's mother, Jameillah Smiley, has seen the video of police shooting her son right outside the family's front door. She says she wants answers from Savannah Police about their shifting account of the events that led up to the shooting.

"So horrible to watch my son get gunned down. They didn't have to kill my son. They didn't have to kill him," she said.

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