- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The state’s attorney for Prince George’s County called Tuesday for a grand jury investigation into the killing of a teen inmate in his jail cell.

“The grand jury is a way for us to make sure the investigation is thorough and objective and comprehensive,” said Ramon V. Korionoff, spokesman for State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. “We will be working with state police and federal officials to make sure we get to the bottom of this. The grand jury serves as an investigative arm as well as a charging arm.”

The announcement follows Monday’s Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office report that Ronnie L. White, 19, died of asphyxiation and strangulation inside his cell at Prince George’s County Correctional Center in Upper Marlboro.

He died about 36 hours after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of county police Cpl. Richard S. Findley, 39.

Mr. Korionoff said the complete, written autopsy report will take at least two weeks to be completed.

Officials began calling for an investigation just hours after Mr. White’s death.

Vernon R. Herron, the county’s public safety director, asked the county police department to investigate Mr. White’s death. In addition, Mary Lou McDonough, interim director of the county’s Corrections Department, began an internal investigation.

On Monday, County Executive Jack B. Johnson asked the state police to take over the investigation.

“We live in a constitutional democracy, and no one has the right to be judge and jury,” he said.

Mr. Johnson, Democrat, said he does not think county police officers were involved in Mr. White’s death.

Special Agent Rich Wolf, an FBI spokesman, said the agency is investigating potential civil rights violations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that it will provide “guidance and legal advice” in the probe, but that the county’s state’s attorney office is expected to lead the investigation.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got a fair amount of experience with investigations into law enforcement,” Mr. Ivey said.

The county police department became the focus of a Justice Department investigation in 1999 because of charges that officers in the canine unit improperly set police dogs on suspects. The probe was expanded to the entire police force in October 2000 after Howard University student Prince Jones was shot five times in the back by a county officer in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Mr. Jones’ death came at the end of a decade when the county force had one of the highest shooting rates among large police departments nationwide.

An Justice Department official said Tuesday that the investigation is scheduled to end next year and does not include oversight of the county corrections department.

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