Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-10-02
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Open To Thinking: The Grand Jury and Civil Rights
A recurring column
by Nick Patricca
2015-01-07

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


The grand jury 'no bill' decisions in the cases of the death of Eric Garner ( Staten Island, New York, July 17, 2014 ) and the death of Michael Brown ( Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 9, 2014 ) through police actions—two unarmed Black men killed by white police officers—have renewed calls to either eliminate or reform the grand jury as a procedure in our USA legal system.

Our grand jury system has been under attack for many decades. This criticism has exceptional urgency because it is essentially part of an emerging civil-rights protest movement that echoes those of the 1960s, which led to the passage of our landmark civil-rights legislation.

On Dec. 11 2014, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., introduced The Grand Jury Reform Act H.R. 5830 into the U.S. House of Representatives. This act stipulates that a special prosecutor must be appointed in all cases "when reasonable grounds exist to believe that criminal charges should be considered ( a crime was committed ) by the officer/s involved." The bill mandates that probable cause hearings before a judge be open to the public and that federal funds to state and local police authorities be denied to those jurisdictions that fail to comply. [Rep. Hank Johnson website Dec. 12, 2014.]

Distinguished civil-rights attorney and law professor James C. Harrington has called for the total abolishment of the grand jury system in the U.S. Harrington writes: "The United States has had to discard anachronistic institutions throughout its history, and it is now time to bury another—the grand jury . this unworkable relic of the past." [The Monitor, Dec. 10, 2014]

The grand jury ( grand because it has more jurors than the average trial jury ) has two primary powers: the power to indict and the power to investigate. It does not judge guilt. It decides whether there is sufficient evidence to indict ( true bill ) or not to indict ( no bill ).

Sections 7 and 8 of Article One of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the State of Illinois require, with some exceptions, grand jury indictments for serious criminal charges. Illinois citizens concerned about grand jury reform should read the Grand Juror Handbook of the State of Illinois ( it is short and well written ): www.state.il.us/court/CircuitCourt/Jury/GrandJuror.asp .

The grand jury enjoys considerable power and latitude. Under its general mandate to make inquiry into crime and corruption within its jurisdiction, the grand jury has the legal authority to subpoena witnesses and documents and to initiate its own investigations independently of the court or the prosecutor.

These legal rights, though rarely exercised, are potentially the key to the effective functioning of grand juries, especially in cases involving the suspected misuse of police power causing significant injury or death to citizens.

Those who object to grand juries as such assert that: they are the passive instruments of the prosecutors; the jurors are not capable of understanding the legal complexities presented to them; and the grand jury system itself adds another layer of inefficiency to a legal system already hobbled by costly and time-wasting procedures.

The grand jury was enshrined in Magna Carta ( reluctantly accepted by King John in 1215 ) precisely to stand between the power of the state and the individual citizen. The grand juror is not meant to be a legal expert. The grand jurors are expected to apply common sense and sound judgment to the matters presented to them. Most importantly, the grand jury has the power to investigate the prosecutor and the court itself if the jurors judge those state agents to be complicit in crime or corruption or the abuse of power.

By statute ( Haw. Rev. Stat. - 612-51 ), the State of Hawaii requires the appointment of at least one independent grand jury counsel to each grand jury. I would like to recommend this reform strategy to those who seek to abolish the grand jury system.

With the assistance of the independent counsel, the grand jury might better understand and employ its powers to investigate, might more readily withstand intimidation by the prosecutor should that occur, might become more active in the process of determining the nature of 'sufficient evidence' in a given case.

Rather than abolish the grand jury or set up alternative juries, why not make the grand jury what it was meant to be—the defender of our civil liberties against the police powers of the state. Make sure the grand juries understand their writs and their rights.

Give this historic 'relic' of our liberty—the grand jury—the tools necessary to do the job.

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.

© nicholas.patricca@gmail.com

© nicholas.patricca@gmail.com


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Ignorance and shortsightedness lead us to the Supreme Court 2019-10-02 - We will always find ourselves going back to the courts to fight for inclusion until we place the needs of the most vulnerable ...


Gay News

LETTER Attorneys needed 2019-10-02 - Dear Editor: According to the report "The Justice Gap," low-income Americans receive no or inadequate legal help for 86 percent for ...


Gay News

Activists halt U.S. Conference on AIDS to protest CDC 2019-09-18 - Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) surely saw it coming. Protests are part ...


Gay News

VIEWS Visibility isn't the goal 2019-09-18 - In mid-July, I interviewed non-binary rapper CJ Run. In discussing the coming out of gay country rapper Lil Nas X, Run articulated something ...


Gay News

REELING 2019 The reviews are in 2019-09-17 - Reeling 2019: The 37th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival will take place Sept. 19-29 at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema and Music Box Theatre. ...


Gay News

VIEWS A straight man's foray into an LGBTQ world 2019-09-04 - My first assignment for Windy City Times looked something like this: I hopped in my car and drove from my white, middle-class, cookie-cutter ...


Gay News

Remembering Michael Bauer, a call to pick up the baton 2019-09-03 - Remarks as prepared for delivery at the memorial service for community leader Mike Bauer, Sept. 3, 2019. I'm here to speak for ...


Gay News

Kinley Preston previews Lips Chicago dinner theater 2019-08-21 - Lips, billed as "the ultimate in drag dining," is locating its fifth location in Chicago. The South Loop venue, opening to the public ...


Gay News

We need to talk about the 'Pose' hospital episode right now 2019-08-07 - The TV show Pose, on FX, is nothing less than astounding to me. So much could have gone wrong, with the era, the ...


Gay News

OP-ED How 'Queen Sugar' increases Black LGBTQ visibility 2019-08-06 - In 2018, there were more LGBTQ people of color on TV than their white counterparts. OWN's Queen Sugar is part of a quiet ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.