Mitchell bill to ban use of Grand Jury in officer-related deaths passes Senate

May 08, 2015

As national concern about police accountability grows so do doubts about grand jury process

Sacramento — A measure to prohibit the use of the criminal Grand Jury in cases of law officer-involved shootings or in cases where the alleged use of excessive force by an officer results in the death of a suspect has been approved by California’s Senate. The Senate floor vote was 23-12, largely along party lines, sending the bill, SB 227, to the Assembly.

“The grand jury system has come under fire nationally following repeated incidents of death at the hands of the police which resulted in no prosecution,” said Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the proposed law. “The outcome of grand jury investigations conducted behind closed doors often seems inexplicable or unfair to the public, especially when eye-witness or videotaped evidence exists.”

Many jurisdictions no longer use grand juries in criminal cases, since public preliminary hearings before judges can serve the purpose of reviewing evidence to determine if there are sufficient grounds for an indictment and trial.

“Criminal grand jury proceedings are secret, not conducted by judges, allow no objections and the evidence presented is chosen only by the prosecutor,” noted Senator Mitchell. “That process can’t be trusted to indict wrongdoers, to vindicate victims wrongfully killed or to publicly exonerate officers who acted in good faith. Everyone involved deserves better and we can do better.”