Protesters in Sacramento have rallied in front of the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office over the past three weeks, calling for justice and accountability in the Stephon Clark case. Specifically, many of them want the DA to charge and convict the two Sacramento police officers who shot and killed Clark.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi joined Insight to discuss their investigation into the Clark shooting, which will also include independent oversight by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on the request of Sacramento police Chief Daniel Hahn.
Here are highlights from the interview:
The protesters want you to file charges against the two officers who shot Stephon Clark. To that specific request, what's the response, Anne Marie?
Schubert: Well, I think it's important to acknowledge that a tragedy happened here in Sacramento and someone's life was lost. I've sat with families that have lost family members and I have tremendous empathy. I respect the rights of protesters and their right to protest. It's important that people understand that as the district attorney, and the district attorney's office, what our job is. And I say this, and I'm going to say it every time is that, when I took an oath 28 years ago, we're always going to follow the facts and the law. We don't have this case in our office yet. And people want us to make a decision today when we don't have any facts or law. But the cornerstone of our system is that we're going to follow due process and that's what we're going to do in this case. So I understand what they want. I was elected to do a job which is to make sure that we follow the facts and law and that's what we're going to do and we're going to do it in a timely fashion and follow our process.
What does that mean that you don't have the case yet? Aren't you one of the agencies that's immediately notified in a situation like this shooting and weren't you notified of it immediately?
Schubert: Right. So we have a protocol in our office, and I can talk about that when the right time is during this hour. But what happens is when there's an officer-involved shooting, we have investigators that go to the scene that do essentially a side-by-side at that time. They have access to the scene. They can observe interviews, and those things of that nature. We also have a crime lab that can, if they're requested, go out and process the scene.
And were they requested in the Stephon Clark case?
Schubert: I don't know the answer. I don't believe so in this particular case. The police department has their own.
But you did have investigators on the scene?
Schubert: Yes. That happens on every case. But that doesn't mean that they come back and start writing their own reports. We then rely on the agency, Sacramento Police Department in this case, to conduct their own investigation. We have an opportunity later when the case is submitted that we can ask for additional follow up — whatever else we think needs to be conducted. And obviously in this particular case we know that really unique circumstances occurred where the attorney general has made a commitment to add investigators to kind of their task force. So our role as the DA's office has not even started in terms of the legal review it has not been submitted to our office for consideration yet. So that's where we're at right now and what people need to understand is that we don't have any case right now for purposes of doing any kind of review.
These investigations are supposedly happening simultaneously. That's what the chief has said. So while the AG's oversight is going on, the city police department is investigating and your investigators are working on their reports.
Schubert: No, our investigators, their role is limited to what happened the night of that scene. They then report to our Special Investigations Division, give them a briefing. But in terms of interviewing witnesses, asking for forensic evaluation, that's left with the agency. So in this case particularly, Sacramento Police Department.
Are you waiting for their report?
So their report has to be completed before you get yours. In the meantime, do you have access, for example, to the coroner's information and will you take into account the independent autopsy that was done?
Schubert: Well the coroner's report will be part of the the Sacramento Police Department's investigation that will be submitted. In terms of the independent investigation — I've always said this — we're going to consider whatever relevant evidence we receive in terms of evaluating the evidence. I've always said this. Whatever kind of case we have in our office, which is one of 25,000 that we have every year, whatever kind of case we have, we have really two questions to answer. And one is, "Was a crime committed?" And two, "If a crime was committed, can that be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?" So we have a process. We have an entire Special Investigations Division that these particular cases go through. It is then, when it's reviewed, which does take time, it goes through a process of multiple layers of review through our executive management team.
How much latitude do you have — how much discretion — in not only deciding the charges that will be filed but taking into account additional information, and latitude in being aggressive in pursuing what you'll gather to take into account in the case?
Grippi: Well as far as being aggressive to develop evidence, there's no problem with that. And I think we are in every case and we will be in this case. I know we'll consider all the evidence presented to us wherever it comes from. So whether it's coming from the family's attorneys, the independent autopsy, or from the county coroner's office, we'll consider all of that.