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SAN JOSE — A grand jury on Wednesday indicted a state drug agent for the shooting death of an unarmed man during a foot chase, the county’s first indictment of an officer in more than 30 years. The family of Rodolfo “Rudy” Cardenas, who was mistaken for a fugitive parolee and killed by California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement agent Michael Walker on Feb. 17, celebrated and sang on the courthouse steps shortly after the indictment was handed down. A large group of family members then joined hands and prayed loudly. Both attorneys and Cardenas’ family members said the indictment vindicates District Attorney George Kennedy’s unusual decision to open the grand jury to the public. And many predict the decision may lead DA’s offices throughout California to open some grand jury proceedings. “We think it was very important to open this proceeding — essential for law and justice in this county,” said John Stein of San Jose’s Boccardo Law Firm, which is representing the Cardenas family in a civil suit against the state of California and Walker. Stein said the decision to open the doors ensured justice in the case. The last time San Jose indicted a police officer was in 1971, he said. In that time, other officers have been charged and held for trial following a preliminary hearing. Cardenas’ widow, Jeanette Cardenas, said she “always had faith in the system,” but added that opening the grand jury doors may have helped the case. “I’m really happy with the decision so everyone could hear [what happened] � especially the family members,” she said. The gallery was silent as the grand jury filed in. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Hansen asked jurors if they had reached a decision on a possible indictment, and the foreman responded “yes.” It was not immediately clear if Walker has been charged with voluntary manslaughter or with second-degree murder. Hansen issued a bench warrant for Walker’s arrest and sealed the indictment. Walker will be released on his own recognizance after his arrest. It was also unclear when the charges will be revealed. Grand jurors were instructed not to discuss the case. Stein said the indictment would likely have little bearing on the lawsuit, although civil proceedings will likely be postponed until after the criminal case is resolved. Cardenas’ 20-year-old daughter, Corina, said she thought it was a “great decision” for the district attorney to open the grand jury doors and said victims in similar cases should have the same opportunity. “People should be able to see what’s going on,” she said. “There’s more pressure in an open hearing, and the family gets to hear all of the evidence.” Ellen Kreitzberg, a criminal justice expert at Santa Clara University School of Law, said the indictment was even more unexpected than Santa Clara’s decision to open two grand jury proceedings in less than a year. In October, a San Jose police officer was cleared in the shooting death of a Vietnamese woman brandishing a large vegetable peeler. But Kreitzberg said the decision to open the doors likely had little to do with the indictment. “There are so many factors that contribute to these cases, starting with composition of the grand jury,” she said. Kreitzberg added that the district attorney’s office likely opened the doors to shield itself from criticism if Walker had been cleared. “That’s the political reality in this case,” she said. “Opening the doors allowed them to say they were being fair and impartial.” Corina Cardenas said her father’s death and the resulting legal case have led her to consider a criminal justice career. Both Cardenas’ widow and daughter said they were pleased with how Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff presented the case.

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