Archive for the 'race' Category

Christine Yared

Black Lives Matter- Ferguson, Missouri


Black Lives Matter - Ferguson, Missouri

I organized this panel talk to challenge people to understand the factors which continue to contribute to the ongoing police shootings of unarmed black men and women and to inspire people to take steps to create change. One of the issues I addressed was the way some prosecuting attorneys use the grand jury process to shield them from making a decision or to obtain support for their view that the officer should not be charged. I have heard prosecutors commenting that the decision was “in the hands of the grand jury,” as if they were talking about the deliberations of a jury after a trial.

There are important distinctions between a grand jury and a trial by jury. First, in a typical criminal case where prosecutors use a grand jury, the prosecutor has a belief that the defendant is guilty, or likely so, and they are testing their evidence. The prosecutor does not aimlessly gather evidence and throw it to the grand jury, instead they strategically gather and present the evidence which points to guilt.

Second, in some of these police shooting cases the suspect has testified. A qualified defense attorney would never allow the client to testify during a grand jury hearing without invoking their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent unless the testimony related to a deal or early plea bargain with the suspect or if the defense attorney knows that the prosecutor does not want the indictment. Thus if there was no plea bargain or other legitimate deal, it is reasonable to conclude that the process was rigged and that the prosecutor wanted the grand jury to vote against indicting the suspect.

Third, the purpose of the grand jury is to test whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to support the charge, not whether the suspect is guilty. According to the Constitution, guilt can only be determined in an open trial, where the defendant is present, has the right to counsel, has the right to call witnesses and has the right to cross-examine witnesses. A grand jury is closed and one-sided. The suspect and defense attorney do not have the right to call or cross-examine witnesses, to present or challenge evidence, to make arguments or appeal the decision. These abuses and the potential for abuse must be addressed by education, political pressure, protest and reform if we want a society which respects the rights and lives of African Americans.

See the article here: