Holly J. Mitchell bill would eliminate Grand Jury in officer-related shootings

February 13, 2015

Says public trust requires a more open investigatory process when fatalities occur

Sacramento – Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has introduced SB 227, a bill to prohibit the use of the criminal Grand Jury in cases of officer-involved shootings or in cases where excessive force used by an officer results in the death of a suspect.

Secrecy in grand jury proceedings was intended to protect the reputations of the unindicted, individuals accused of crimes whom grand jurors determined should not stand trial. In today’s world of blogs, lightning-fast news, and video cameras at the touch of a cell phone, the original purpose of the grand jury has lost its meaning. But the unintentional consequence has become a way to keep citizens from being fully informed and involved in the trials of those peace officers accused of abusing their power.

“Community mistrust in the justice system arises when the public’s right to know is abridged,” said Senator Mitchell. “Too often eye witnesses and video evidence substantiating charges of wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement are not revealed or probed in context, resulting in seemingly inexplicable dismissal of cases by the Grand Jury. “

Senator Mitchell is not the first public official to speak openly about the need to reform the grand jury process. Retired Judge and Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell has observed, “Proceedings in Grand Juries are secret, non-adversarial, and under complete control of the prosecutor. There is no place for secrecy in our criminal justice system, particularly where officer misconduct is alleged.”

“When the unarmed die at the hands of peace officers,” added Senator Mitchell, “People want to know why, what accountability will ensue, and how it can be prevented.”