California Bans Secret Grand Jury Hearings

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

California is banning secret grand jury indictment hearings in cases where an officer kills a civilian.

Under bill SB277, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Aug. 11, prosecutors are forced to either file criminal charges or drop the case, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB227 makes sense,” bill author Democrtic state Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, 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.”

In a standard criminal grand jury indictment, the evidence is presented to a panel of citizens who decide if the officer should face charges. However, the procedure came under fire after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York failed to indict officers involved with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Mitchell argued that the process lacks transparency and breeds mistrust in the justice system, Huffington Post reported.

“Communities want a criminal justice system that is transparent and which holds all of the players — law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, accountable when there are civilian deaths resulting from the conduct of officers. Criminal grand juries do neither,” said police auditor LaDoris Cordell, a retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judge.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post Image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr