AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beginning Tuesday, a grand jury will look into criminal charges in the case of a former Austin police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old David Joseph.
Austin police say officer Geoffrey Freeman responded to a disturbance call on Yager Lane in North Austin in February. David Joseph was in the street, naked and unarmed. Freeman told investigators he feared for his life as Joseph charged towards him, causing him to shoot and kill the teen.
An autopsy released a month after the shooting, showed there was Xanax, antihistamines and marijuana in Joseph’s system. The following day, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told KXAN, Freeman was fired after an internal investigation revealed four policy violations, including civil and police policy. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) immediately announced its plans to appeal the decision.
The Grand Jury hearing is expected to take several weeks. Grand Jury members may be called for jury duty for months at a time, but need only appear in court for a few days out of every month.
During the hearing, there is no judge present and proceedings are kept in strict confidence which serves two purposes. It encourages witnesses to speak freely, and protects the defendant, if the jury decides not to indict. Unlike a trial, the decision doesn’t need to be unanimous, just a super majority. If the Grand Jury decides to indict, a trial typically begins faster.
Freeman is not required to testify and does not need to be present during the hearing.
The last Austin Police Officer, to go before a grand jury, in an officer-involved shooting, was Charles Kleinert. Kleinert shot and killed Larry Jackson Junior after he ran from the scene of a bank robbery in 2013. Last October, a judge overturned the Grand Jury’s decision to indict Kleinert for manslaughter, saying he was acting as a federal agent and should receive immunity. Kleinert was serving on a federal task force at the time. In January, the Travis County District Attorney announced the office is appealing to a federal court to reinstate a manslaughter charge against him.