Defense Criticizes Grand Jury Process In Anthony Hill Shooting

Jan 25, 2016

DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen surrendered to jail officials last night after a criminal grand jury indicted him on charges, including murder, for the shooting death of Anthony Hill.

Olsen was released on a $110,200 bond on Friday morning, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff's office.

“We were in the Grand Jury from about 9 in the morning 'til about 6:45 at night. It’s a grueling process to have to sit there and just watch the witnesses,” said Olsen’s lawyer, Don Samuel.

Samuel called the grand jury hearings a one-sided process - saying there’s no chance for the defense to present or cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

He said Olsen did exercise his right, unique to law enforcement facing grand juries in Georgia, to give a prepared statement at the end of the proceedings. The officer spoke for about 20 minutes, according to Samuel, but was prevented from from presenting evidence or bringing in supporting materials.

Hill’s mother and her attorney, who were allowed to witness a non-binding, civil grand jury hearing in October, have said Olsen, represented then by Police Benevolent Association counsel, gave an hour-long statement which included a PowerPoint presentation.

Samuel said Olsen’s prepared remarks on Thursday included a response to the prosecution’s allegations that Olsen made false statements to the next officer on scene. DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said Olsen allegedly told a fellow officer that Anthony Hill had tried to pound on his chest.

“Olsen says he has no memory of even talking to Anderson. He doesn’t even remember the first officers arriving,” said Samuel.

Last night, outside the DeKalb County Courthouse, poncho-clad demonstrators who’d camped outside for days gathered around Hill’s mother and girlfriend as they emerged after the District Attorney’s announcement.

“I’m just glad the jury saw what we already saw - the evidence, the truth. I’m really speechless,” said Carolyn Giummo, Hill’s mother.

“This has a potential to set a national precedent,” said Christopher Chestnut, Hill’s family’s lawyer, referring to convictions for officers accused of using deadly force on civilians. “Certainly there’s a national trend, and that trend has not been very encouraging.”

Hill’s family and supporters talked about the need for de-escalation training for law enforcement and improved access to mental health services, especially for military veterans.

The case will now be assigned to a Superior Court judge. Olsen’s attorney says his client plans to plead not guilty.

“It also begins the process of filing motions, where we plan to challenge the validity of the indictment. We challenge the grand jury process. We have some questions about the procedures that were used there,” Samuel said.

He says they plan to assert a self-defense claim before the trial, which Georgia law allows. Samuel says they will consider a change-of-venue request if necessary.

It could be up to a year before a trial begins.

Disclosure: Defense attorney Don Samuel is related to WABE reporter Molly Samuel.