Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Grand Juries


**WARNING: This post is likely to contain lots of cyber eye-rolling, sighing and sarcasm. I'm not even going to pretend to be neutral on the matter. It's also not really a commercial issue, but still an important one. **

"...liberty and justice for all"
The decisions not to indict the killers of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have sparked protests across America. These were not findings of innocence, but decisions not to even try to establish guilt or innocence through trial. 

Seems legit. 

What is a grand jury?
According to the BBC, a grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who represent the community. They are used to decide whether there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution.

What do grand juries do? 
Unlike trial juries, grand juries don't decide if someone is guilty of criminal charges that have been brought against them. Grand juries listen to evidence and decide if someone SHOULD be charged with a crime.

Grand jury proceedings are conducted behind closed doors to encourage witnesses to speak freely and to protect the defendant's reputation in case the jury does not indict.

Usually the only lawyer present in grand jury hearings is the prosecutor, who will present evidence whatever evidence (s)he chooses to present. The jury has the power to request to see and hear any evidence it wants.

Even though a grand jury may decide not to indict, a prosecutor could still bring the defendant to trial if they think they have a strong enough case (or if they're not biased.) 

So a grand jury will indict when there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution, like video evidence of police using an illegal choke hold on an unarmed victim, right? 
pretty concrete evidence, right?

WRONG. 

If Eric Garner's killer can't be indicted, what cop possibly could? The system is clearly flawed. There must be a reason that grand juries, in most jurisdictions, have been virtually eliminated. Unless something changes, history will keep repeating itself

And I haven't even gone into the race issue. 

Read More: 
BBC News - Eric Garner death: US grand jury system 'broken'
Washington Post - Houston grand juries: too white, too law-and-order, and too cozy with cops
CBS - Why grand jury indictments in police shootings are so rare
The Economist - Race in America: The fury of Ferguson
Vulture - Chris Rock Interview (with some enlightening comments on "racial progress")

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