The grand jury is perhaps the most mysterious institution in the American criminal justice system. While most people are generally familiar with the function of the police officer, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the judge, and the trial jury, few have any idea about what the grand jury is supposed to do and its day-to-day operation. That ignorance largely explains how some over-reaching prosecutors have been able to pervert the grand jury, whose original purpose was to check prosecutorial power, into an inquisitorial bulldozer that enhances the power of government and now runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of citizens.
Like its more famous relative, the trial jury, the grand jury consists of laypeople who are summoned to the courthouse to fulfill a civic duty. However, the work of the grand jury takes place well before any trial. The primary function of the grand jury is to inquire into the commission of crimes within its jurisdiction and then determine whether an indictment should issue against any particular person. But, in sharp contrast to the trial setting, the jurors hear only one side of the story and there is no judge overseeing the process. With no judge or opposing counsel in the room, grand jurors naturally defer to the prosecutor since he is the most knowledgeable official on the scene. Indeed, the single most important fact to appreciate about the grand jury system is that it is the prosecutor who calls the shots and dominates the entire process. The grand jurors have become little more than window dressing.
At present, Congress seems to be interested only in proposals that will further expand the powers of the grand jury. Recent “anti-terrorism” proposals, for example, have sought to remove critical limitations on the dissemination of grand jury material. Because the grand jury can easily function as a stalking horse for prosecutors to bypass the constitutional rights of individuals and organizations, it is imperative that its powers be scaled back, not unleashed.
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WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Valdosta, Ga., convicted defendant Walter Young, 54, the former chief of the Omega Police Department in Omega, Ga., for physically abusing a man in his custody, the Justice Department announced.
On March 24, 2011, Young, while acting in his capacity as the chief of police, assaulted Alfonso Moreno, a pretrial detainee, by repeatedly slapping and punching him in the head and face while he was fully restrained in a restraint chair, violating the civil rights of the detainee. The defendant struck the victim eight times, causing him to bleed. X-rays the next day showed the victim had a broken nose. The assault was captured on the jail’s video surveillance system. The jury further found that Alfonso Moreno suffered bodily injury as a result of Young’s use of excessive force.
“Most officers do their job with honor, but this officer abused the authority entrusted to him by his community,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. “The federal government will continue to vigorously prosecute individuals who violate the constitutional rights of others.”
BEAUMONT, Calif. (KTLA) — A Beaumont police officer accused of permanently blinding a woman with pepper spray pleaded not guilty on Thursday to four felony charges.
A Riverside County grand jury last week indicted officer Enoch Clark on charges of assault with great bodily injury and other felonies.
On February 21, Clark sprayed pepper spray in the face of Monique Christina Hernandez, 32, while he tried to arrest her on suspicion of driving under the influence, the city of Beaumont said in a statement.
Clark allegedly fired the spray from 12 inches away using a JPX device, which shoots spray at speeds of 400 miles per hour and is supposed to be used at a minimum distance of five feet, Hernandez’s lawyer Milton Grimes said in an interview.
“She did nothing to warrant him putting a gun — a pepper-spray Taser gun — to her forehead and pulling the trigger, causing her right eye to explode and causing severe nerve damage in her left eye to the extent that she’s not been declared totally blind,” Grimes said.
Hernandez suffered severe injuries to both of her eyes, Grimes said.
Clark is charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury, assault with a less-lethal weapon, assault under the color of authority and use of force causing serious bodily injury.
He is now free on $50,000 bail.
Clark has been placed on administrative leave by the Beaumont Police Department.