Instant Poll: Grand Juries

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 277 into law. Those of you outside California might not have heard of SB 277 but that is likely to change. SB 277 bans the use of grand juries in cases where police officers use lethal force. This is in response to the rash of police shootings we’ve seen in the media that go unpunished when the oft secretive (and easily manipulated) grand jury process has returned no true bill (a.k.a. opted not to prosecute). This blog has seen a fair amount of the controversy surround Ferguson and other like incidents, much of it around the grand jury process itself.

About Gene Howington

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9 Responses to Instant Poll: Grand Juries

  1. bettykath says:

    Abolition of the grand jury may require a constitutional amendment. Amendment V states: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, …..

  2. bettykath says:

    So the limiting would be for cops killing unarmed kids?

  3. randyjet says:

    The problem is not so much with the grand jury system as it is with the method of selection for those grand juries. They are usually staffed with those with political connections and influence or law enforcement people. The prosecutors are always loathe to indict or prosecute LEOs since they need them and rely on them for good outcomes for prosecutors. Thus a LEO has to really be outlandishly bad to get to a trial for a killing.

  4. I see the same problem Randy points out. However, if the GJ is eliminated or sharply curtailed, that means it is up to the local DA to file charges and prosecute. I don’t see that happening except in an usually outrageous incident. Even then, there would need to be at least 27 videos and a hundred reliable witnesses, not to mention political pressure.

  5. bettykath says:

    Gene, I would expect the police unions to challenge the CA law as being unconstitutional at least in cases where lethal force ends in death.

  6. I see SB 277 as a red herring. Absent other background, the problem appears to me as not being the grand jury system, but rather the reluctance – whether perceived or actual – of the local DA’s to pursue police misconduct cases. A state level law enforcement agency should investigate all egregious police actions, and the state attorney general’s office should bring charges and prosecute when warranted.

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