Monday, October 24, 2005

The Beauty of a Grand Jury

In Texas, everyone has the right to have his felony case heard by a grand jury. For those who have heard the expression, "A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich," this may not seem like a big deal. But in reality, it is. It is true that if a prosecutor really wants someone indicted, he can pretty much get it done. But it is also true that on garden variety felonies, grand juries sometimes do a great job of weeding out the crap that would result in formal charges if a mere "probable cause" finding by a judge were required. Case in point. A few weeks ago, I was appointed to represent a man arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Apparently, he had been letting a friend stay in his apartment. One night, they had a couple ladies over and everyone was apparently drinking, but no one was intoxicated, they got into an argument. Both men ended up calling the police. My guy was arrested because his "friend" said that he had pulled a knife on him. He didn't touch him, but it is still aggravated assault to threaten someone with a knife. For some reason, the cop decided to believe the other guy over my guy, and here we are. At the examining trial, I asked the police officer what the two women said had happened. He said that one of them was very vague. Vague, okay, but what did she say? He didn't remember. Did he put her statement in his report? No. I asked him if my client had admitted to having pulled a knife or threatening the complainant in any way. He didn't remember. Since there was no mention in his report of my client making such an admission, I asked him if he would have included such an admission in his report if it had happened. He said that he didn't know. Seriously? That was actually my follow-up question, by the way. "Seriously?" This was just a ridiculous case. Maybe you could argue that the officer thought he should arrest somebody so that nothing got out of hand with these folks that night, but actually filing a second-degree felony charge? Um, no. Anyway, now it was time to decide what to do for the grand jury hearing. In our jurisdiction, although I can't walk into the grand jury room and make a presentation, I can submit documents and evidence for their consideration. I thought about writing a grand jury letter laying out why I thought the case should not be indicted. But, I couldn't really think of what to say except, "Don't indict this case because it's stupid." I decided not to submit anything in the hopes that the grand jurors would have the wisdom to see that for themselves after hearing the police report. Last week, they did. No bill. And that is the beauty of a grand jury.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Wilfred said...

Little doubt, the dude is completely just.
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12/19/2011 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Barnabas said...

In my opinion everyone must look at it.
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1/25/2012 10:22 AM  

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