SURE, EVERYONE KNOWS; BUT, WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A GRAND JURY?

Born in the U.S. and having lived for almost seven decades in America, I had heard the term “Grand Jury” many times.  Everyone assumes they know what it is, but do they… really?  The term has come up recently since the Saint Louis County Prosecutor, in Missouri, chose to “try” (White) Police Officer Daren Wilson before it, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black Man, in Ferguson, last August.

A Grand Jury is an anachronism that dates back to Medieval English Law, back when there were no police forces or even a modern Court System as we know it today.  At that time anyone could bring charges against anyone.  The purpose of the Grand Jury was for the prosecutor to prove that there was sufficient evidence to try the case.

At the time of the Birth of the United States, our Founding Fathers chose to include the Grand Jury System (as the Fifth Amendment) in our Bill of Rights.  The reason was to insure that the Government (at some future date) could not try someone on trumped-up charges, which might have been commonplace in the Great Britain of that time.

Noah Feldman, a Professor of Constitutional and International Law at Harvard University, wrote the linked article for Bloomberg View, as follows: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-25/fergusons-grand-jury-problem?wpisrc=nl-wonkbk&wpmm=1.  His comments are similar to that of many legal analysts who have recently questioned the St. Louis County Prosecutor, Robert McCulloch for “trying” the police officer before a Grand Jury, rather than a Court of Law if the facts warranted it.

Going back to why that System is in our Legal System (although only half of the states actually use it), is for the Prosecutor to demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to consider whether a crime was, indeed, committed.  Mr. McCulloch, is not trusted by the Local Black Community since he comes from a Family of police officers, and based on his prior actions.

Generally, the purpose of a Grand Jury is to prove why a case should go to trial–not why it shouldn’t. And, that is behind all of the questions surrounding McCulloch’s legal strategy in this case.

The Prosecutor completely controls the entire Grand Jury process.  But, it appears to many that Mr. McCulloch chose to use that process to cover-up his biases.  It would be a way for him to deflect all responsibility for the Jury’s “decision”, based on the evidence that he might have selectively presented. But, to his way of thinking, it would lend validation to his preferred course of action.  Hopefully, our Department of Justice will step-in, weigh the evidence, and schedule a Trial if truly warranted.

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  1. #1 by breakingmad14 on November 27, 2014 - 10:27 PM

    My hopes are with the Justice Department.

    • #2 by cheekos on November 28, 2014 - 4:25 PM

      Breaking Mad14, thanks for visiting my Blog, and for Commenting on this Post. I agree, County Prosecutor McCulloch lived “up” to his reputation–that of a biased racist. Hopefully the DOJ will take a different approach–and present the case fairly and honestly. Perhaps the Public’s reliance on Justice might be why, after the initial surge of emotion–probably caused by outside disrupters–there has been relative calm in Ferguson.

      There is one other point. It seems that some of the local residents helped shout-down those bent on violence and helped protect some of the local businesses. People have to realize that, when they torch the businesses that their neighbors patronize, they are just making it harder for their own Community to access its basic needs. Those business owners take-on additional risks when doing business in a relatively poor community–as compared to the wealthier areas within Saint Louis County.

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