Grand Jury Investigations

So one of the Grand Jurors for the County of Saint Louis is upset with the way the District Attorney presented his case and wants to speak out in public.  The members of each grand jury impaneled are sworn to secrecy as to the proceedings and for good reason.  The use of grand juries is not a constitutional right, that is, you have no right to a grand jury trial.  A citizen can be charged and bought to trial with out the use of indictment if the District Attorney so desires.  And in fact this is often the case in the criminal justice system.  If one is caught robbing a store one goes through the usual procedures of being brought to the police station and processed.  That process usually includes being informed of why you have been arrested, finger printing, body search, and exchange of civilian clothes for jail clothes.  Then at some point in time, usually within a certain number of hours prescribed under law one is charged by the police and brought before a judge for the formal arraignment  There bail may be set and your case put on the court’s calendar.  That is the normal way police and the district attorney do things and it is all very direct.

But suppose that there are some questions as to: one, has a crime been committed; two, what sort of crime was committed;, and three, is this the individual who committed the alleged crime?  At the hearing before a judge when one is arraigned for trial the District Attorney is suppose to submit enough evidence that a judge would deem sufficient for a trial.  Your honor, the defendant had possession of a weapon, was identified by the victim that he did so do etc.  But if the DA does not offer enough evidence the judge will not have him bound over for trial and dismiss the charges and the arrest.  Well, what’s a poor DA suppose to do?  This is where a grand jury comes into play.  The police investigate the crime in all its glory.  Forensic specialist look for all manner of evidence and search warrants are sought, and if approved by a judge who certifies that there is probable cause for such a search and usually that search is narrowly defined, no fishing trips if you please.  And so it goes, the evidence is sought, cataloged when discovered, motive assessed, and identity verified.  Then the DA convenes the grand jury and presents his case, not for conviction, but as to whether these is sufficient evidence and motive to bring the case to trial.  The grand jury performs the role of the arraigning judge in the part of justifying whether there is enough evidence for a trial.  The DA is under no obligation at the point of arraignment or grand jury indictment to present all evidence nor is he obligated to present such evidence is some strict order.  That grand jury may meet many times over the same case before he asks for an indictment.  It is not the grand jury’s right to ask for better evidence or what may or may not be presented.  Their only duty is to consider the facts, the evidence presented, and then arrive at a decision.  It is  a yes or no decision, period.  Do we agree on a true bill of indictment or not.  If we do not agree then there is no true bill of indictment.

Well, what’s so wrong about members of the grand jury speaking out on the evidence and the presentation?  First, they are sworn to secrecy for a reason.  For them to publicize the proceedings is to subject the case to prejudice.  If there is no true bill, it does not mean that charges cannot be brought later.  There could be in the future evidence obtained that would cause a true bill to be returned by another session of the grand jury.  Many criminal investigations drag on for years until finally a true bill is obtained.  You see, the District Attorney does not need to make public the evidence in the case until time of arraignment.  The police are under no obligation to inform you that you are being investigated of a crime.  You or I could be under investigation right now and the police chief is under no obligation to inform me or you that either of us is under investigation for the crime of X.  If I go down to the police department with my lawyer and ask if I am under investigation then they must answer either yes or no.  On the other hand if my neighbor asks the police if I am under investigation for a crime they will not answer yes and it may well harm their investigation if my neighbor broadcasts to the neighborhood that I am under investigation.  This is the principle of Fair Play where we act according to the know rules of the game.  Now you or I could be called a person of interest, meaning that we may have knowledge of a crime that has been committed.  We could be witnesses to a crime or we could be witnesses to physical evidence or even to motive.  We might have seen the perpetrator threaten the victim on a previous occasion.  But supposed the alleged perpetrator had an alibi and could not have committed the crime.  If he was not charged, then letting a member of the grand jury talk about the testimony, and thus evidence we gave before that jury could be prejudicial to that cleared individual.  He may have had an affair with the victim but he didn’t kill her.  Why would it be important for a grand jury member to air his dirty laundry in public.  How would this serve th cause of justice?

Perhaps we should make exceptions when it suits us.  Except the need for exceptions never ceases if such an attitude is adopted.  The grand juror who is bring suit against the District Attorney is doing so not for the cause of justice or even it its name.  But rather an individual who has some emotional need to open up on the subject of the presentation of the evidence to that grand jury.  We do not allow lawyers to serve on grand juries for a very good reason and that is conflict in interest.  The individual who is bringing suit has no legal training, no understanding of the law in all its implications, so just what can this individual say that would shed light on the grand jury procedures?  Now much of the evidence and the various testimonies have been made public.  But beyond that, what else is there to debate?  You think McCulloch’s handling of the case is suspect?  Maybe so, but is a grand jury member the one to be in judgment of the handling?  What new insight is to be gained?  And even if Darren Wilson had been indicted and brought to trail, and that trial would occur many years in the future, it would not be speedy in the rush to judgment many in the public demand, that opens up another can of worms.  After all, where would such a trial be held?  We must assure that it would be a fair trial.  Would all prospective black jurors be challenges as biased against the defendant?  That is a very valid point when we consider the defendant’s right to a fair trial.  In fact, due to the nature of the news coverage we might never be sure that a fair trial could be held.  So how does this former grand juror feel that speaking about the procedures will help with the so called racial divide?  It’s only a racial divide because the leaders of institutional race baiting have made it an issue that inflames the emotions and not the understandings of so many unthinking people.  The only thing that is to be served is that grand juror’s personal vanity and with to become infamous in the history of racism.  And yes, it is racism of the worst kind.


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