#Ferguson Rep. Hank Johnson Drops Special Prosecutor Bill to Alter Grand Jury...

#Ferguson Rep. Hank Johnson Drops Special Prosecutor Bill to Alter Grand Jury System

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Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) just dropped his second piece of legislation related to Ferguson and the death’s of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  

Johnson’s first bill would cut back Pentagon Program 1033.  This legislation would attempt to fix the grand jury system.  Grand Juries failed to indict police officers Darren Wilson and Dan Pantaleo in the shooting and strangling deaths of Brown and Wilson — both of whom were unarmed.  Though today might be the last day of the 113th Congress, this bill is likely to be filed again by Johnson in early January.

Today, conservative writer George Will wrote about how Garner’s death was killed in part because of over-criminalization.

Below is the press release related to Rep. Johnson’s grand jury bill:
 
Responding to calls that the nation’s grand jury system is broken when police are investigated for the killing of civilians, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) introduced the “Grand Jury Reform Act, H.R. 5830.”

The bill would require the appointment of a special prosecutor charged with conducting a probable cause hearing, open to the public, when reasonable grounds exist to believe that criminal charges should be considered (a crime was committed) by the officer/s involved.  Passage of this bill would help restore trust in our justice system, while ensuring a fair process for all parties.

The “Grand Jury Reform Act” also specifies that in order for local law enforcement agencies to receive federal funding, they would have to comply with this new process. If enacted, the governor of the state where the incident in question occurred would appoint a prosecutor, who would present evidence on behalf of the state at the hearing. The preliminary hearing would also remain open to the public, except as determined appropriate by the presiding judge.
 
“The protesters demand an end to what is perceived as unequal justice, and that those who are responsible for the use of excessive force be brought to justice,” said Johnson. “They do not trust a secret grand jury system that is so clearly broken. My bill will help restore that trust.  No longer will communities have to rely on the secret and biased grand jury process.”

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers is a cosponsor of the bill, which Johnson intends on reintroducing early in the 114th Congress.

2 COMMENTS

  1. How did the GJ not work in Ferguson? There was no probable cause for an indictment, how would a special prosecutor do it differently? Unless of course a special prosecutor has one goal and that is to go to trial, not get the truth. In the NY case, I do not think I agree with the decision, but I have not seen all the evidence. I personally think it was a choke hold in the beginning, and then there is a ton we can’t see from video. I think all of the officers failed to give aide as well. But again, depending on the letter of the law, and the evidence, it is hard to say why the GJ in NY came to their decision. In Ferguson, we have seen the evidence. We know the eye witness accounts the media portrayed at the beginning are all bogus. We know Mike Brown had just committed a crime. And yet we still have the FALSE narrative of hands up don’t shoot, even by law makers! I think had the GJ been public for the Brown case, many REAL witness accounts would of been stifled out of fear. Maybe that is what these lawmakers want, to stifle the truth and just get their narrative pushed.

  2. This bill wouldn’t “reform” grand juries. It would simply eliminate them as to a single class of accused citizens. Everybody else would have the right guaranteed by 22 states and the federal government (see U.S. Fifth Amendment) to have probable cause determined by a local grand jury of their peers. These defendants would first have the governor decide that reasonable cause existed to prosecute them (a decision that would inevitably be political), and then have probable cause determined by a judge. Since the judges who knew the accused would likely recuse themselves, the judge would be appointed from elsewhere in the state. Everybody else would get an elected prosecutor sworn “to seek justice, not merely to convict” (ABA Criminal Justice Standard 3—1.2[c]). These defendants would get a political appointee whose duty is “to present evidence on behalf of the state.” Everybody else would have the right to have the evidence against them reviewed by the grand jury in private so it could not prejudice a future trial or damage their reputation if they were not indicted. These defendants would get all of the inculpatory evidence presented in public to poison the jury pool, with most of the exculpatory evidence excluded as irrelevant to determining probable cause. What happened to equal protection of the laws? It seems ironic that African-Americans would support the weakening of the Fourteenth Amendment that was enacted specifically to protect them from lynch law.

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