With grand juries failing to indict the police officers involved in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been civil unrest and a mistrust in the judicial system. The decision not to bring criminal charges has shaken many people’s faith in the government and the legal process, particularly in minority groups. This led to a national demonstration, calling for more visibility in the judicial system.
California listened. Governor Jerry Brown passed a bill that bans the use of grand juries in cases that involve deadly force used by a police officer. It is the first state to do so. What does this mean for citizens and the criminal defense system? In order to understand, it is important to know just how a grand jury works.
Grand juries decide whether a case has enough evidence to prosecute an individual for a felony crime. The jury usually consists of 6 or 12 people, though in the federal system, it can include 16 to 23 people. These individuals are presented with the details of a case and then must decide whether there is probable cause to indict the defendant. The proceedings are kept secret and the details that led to a decision remained sealed unless otherwise noted. Grand juries are, if used, the first step in a criminal procedure.
Without grand juries in deadly force cases involving the police, prosecutors can hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. There will also be transparency in the decisions made in such cases. California aims to hold everyone responsible for their actions, regardless of their station in society.
At Chung & Ignacio, Attorneys at Law, we believe that everyone deserves the right to due process. Our criminal defense attorneys in Rancho Cucamonga have extensive experience helping those in need. Contact us at (909) 726-7112for a free consultation.