Statement by District Attorney Andrew Murray:
Confrontations between police and citizens in which deadly force is used are among the most important cases the District Attorney’s Office will ever handle. In these cases, my office uses a protocol that incorporates nationally-recognized best practices and is designed to ensure a thorough and impartial review of each case. The public is invited to read this protocol to learn more about how these cases are investigated and reviewed. My prosecutors and I have a duty to objectively analyze the totality of the evidence and circumstances, and that means we must face difficult issues, which have been discussed at length in this report. It is my sincere prayer that no one is ever killed by police, but I also pray that police are never placed in the position of having to make the decision to use lethal force to protect themselves or innocent lives around them.
I know that some will feel frustrated by this outcome. I want our community to understand that this office put significant effort into ensuring that this decision was based on the evidence and not personal bias or public opinion.
In describing the legal analysis and the basis for the decision in this case, my office and I unfortunately find ourselves in the position of correcting misinformation that has been shared both on social media and in the news media. People made claims on camera but later admitted to law enforcement that they did not actually see the incident. The public might then wonder why more information was not released to refute these untrue statements. I have always asserted that my office would strive toward transparency, but I need people to understand that among my highest priorities is also protecting the integrity of every investigation. Releasing information before any investigation is complete can taint the case, preventing an objectively verifiable investigation and perhaps even the possibility of a prosecution. In an ongoing investigation, details are closely guarded to help measure the truthfulness of witnesses and – should someone be charged – preserve the defendant’s right to a fair trial. I know that a lack of accurate information is frustrating to the public and the media that operate on a 24-hour news cycle, but in this age of instant media and the impulse to immediately form an opinion, I am asking that as we move forward, we remind ourselves that in these cases, we should not jump to conclusions until we have all of the facts.
In the days that followed Mr. Scott’s death, we watched as long-simmering frustrations boiled over. I heard observers say, “This is not Charlotte” or “This is not the city that we love.” But it is. This is Charlotte. This is where our friends, family, neighbors and colleagues felt so passionate that they marched on our streets to call for change. Let me be clear: I have not and will not condone violence or property damage as a means of expression. But the fact that criminal charges are not appropriate under the law in this particular case does not mean we can dismiss the concerns expressed by those who raised their voices to raise the consciousness of this community. I think it is time that all of us recognize that this is Charlotte, and not everyone experiences the same Charlotte.
Throughout our entire justice system, people should have the same experience. The people of Mecklenburg County deserve the confidence that every case is handled with fairness and equity. Since I took office nearly six years ago, my office has taken several innovative steps toward that goal. And we’re not working alone. Mecklenburg County’s courts are fortunate to have leaders and partners who work every day to advocate for efficient, researched-based strategies to make our courts fair and effective.
I welcome being part of the ongoing public discussion and exchange of ideas about how to improve our justice system so that all community members have complete confidence that they will be treated fairly and with respect. Justice demands nothing less.