California eliminates grand jury hearings for police shootings  

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills on Tuesday, one of which will forbid grand juries from investigating police shootings.

The second bill Brown approved attested the legality of citizens to record police activity in public.

With the passage of both bills, State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) claimed the two laws would enhance police accountability.

“One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB 227 makes sense,” Mitchell said in a statement.  “The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), author of the “right to record” bill stated:

“With the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reinforces our 1st Amendment right and ensures transparency, accountability and justice for all Californians.  At a time when cellphone and video footage is helping steer important national civil rights conversations, passage of the Right to Record Act sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”

Both bills were opposed by law enforcement interest groups including the California Association of District Attorneys.

The downside of banning grand juries for police cases is the loss of their investigative value,” says Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “Grand jury subpoenas can elicit testimony from witnesses who otherwise might not cooperate.”   

How does this help?

Rush measures to monitor police will miscarry.  Despite the reality many inner cities have foregone the use of grand jury proceedings in favor of direct investigations conducted by the district attorney’s office, this legal body remains a critical judicial tool to investigate crime, regardless of whom is the target of the inquiry.

For those who seek redress of injustice, the prying eyes and wagging tongues of a courtroom may be more suitable than a politicized investigation conducted by elected officials and those appointed to execute just prosecution.

While supporters judge the passage of these two bills as favorable, the boomerang effect will be felt when an investigation fails to produce an indictment in a crime and the grand jury alternative is no longer available.

Imagine the wild notions printed in the press when the calls to return to a grand jury emerge again.


[LATimes] [Phillytrib] [Photo courtesy]