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house Bill H.R. 429

Does The Grand Jury Process Need More Transparency And Public Interaction?

Argument in favor

Reforming the grand jury process and inviting the public to follow proceedings can help avoid violations of justice. By putting these cases under state level control, local district attorneys will no longer hesitate to bring charges against law enforcement officers in their jurisdiction.

Elinor's Opinion
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02/10/2015
Yes, we should be able to see what is happening in the system of justice that supposedly exists in our country.
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Garrett's Opinion
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05/18/2015
The statistics prove that the current grand jury process is broken. This kind of transparency will greatly help prevent further tragedies through greater scrutiny. Government, in general should be transparent in any case where public safety is not in danger from the release of the information.
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Nicholas's Opinion
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02/06/2015
Way too cozy of a relationship between DAs and cops for anything even close to a fair process for all of us plebs.
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Argument opposed

This bill does not bind the local district attorney to the findings of the special prosecutor, which somewhat defeats the purpose of this reform. Also, employing special prosecutors after every deadly-force incident involving law enforcement could be costly.

Ryan's Opinion
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02/06/2015
This legislation isn't being put forth for any other reason than political fodder. Our Grand Jury system, while not perfect, does work. This bill isn't doing anything except giving politicians a "see I told you so" moment if the bill doesn't pass. It's shameful and, a large reason why our government isn't getting anything done in districts with politicians in it like this.
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Deborah's Opinion
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02/04/2015
a grand jury sees all evidence and makes a decision based on that evidence. The media speculations that go on are fueled by fear and sensationalizing unsubstantiated facts for ratings. More transparency and public interaction isn't needed, because there will never be enough to satisfy everyone.
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Jv's Opinion
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02/06/2015
not perfect but should serve the purpose for which it was intended
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What is House Bill H.R. 429?

This bill would require states to reform the grand jury process that oversees law enforcement officers who are involved in deadly-force cases. If states choose not to comply, H.R. 429 would cut some of their federal law enforcement funding. 


By threatening to take away federal law enforcement grants, the bill hopes to increase transparency and eliminate potential bias in the grand jury process. After a law enforcement officer uses deadly-force on a civilian while on duty, the incident must be reported within 24 hours to the local district attorney. The district attorney must then issue a report to the state’s governor within another 24 hour period. 


Within three days of receiving this notice, the governor of the state would appoint a special prosecutor to decide if there is probable cause to bring charges against the law enforcement officer. The special prosecutor would be selected at random, and a judge would determine if there is evidence to support the charges.


Under this bill, the hearing before a judge must happen within 90 days of a special prosecutor being appointed — unless  the judge finds good reason for it to be delayed. During the hearing, the court would be required to remain open to the public. The public would also receive notice about the date, time, and location of the hearing.


Within five days of the conclusion of the hearing, the judge would make a ruling and release their findings to the public and the district attorney in the area where the death happened. The special prosecutor would also submit recommendations to the local district attorney.


The hearing process would be considered purely advisory, and the special prosecutors’ recommendations will not be binding upon the local district attorney.

Impact

Grand juries for cases involving the use of deadly-force by law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, governors.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 429

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

Of Note:

After two separate grand juries declined to indict the officers involved in the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014, there have been nationwide protests against the decisions. A poll conducted by Pew Research found that public opinion over whether the grand juries made the right choice was contentious — split along racial and ideological lines.


The grand jury process is more secretive than a criminal trial as there is no judge present and the accused is not allowed to present arguments in their defense. The lack of public knowledge about how grand juries work and the polarized reactions to the Eric Garner and Michael Brown incidents have led to calls to increase transparency in the grand jury process.   


In Depth:

Under this legislation, within 24 hours of notice from the governor, state law enforcement (instead of local officials) would have exclusive authority over the investigation into the use of deadly-force. The chief officer of the agency whose law enforcement officer was involved in the use of deadly-force would be directed to respond promptly to information requests related to the incident.


Media:

Sponsoring Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) Press Release

Huffington Post Op-Ed by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)

The Hill

National Journal

Al Jazeera America

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue)

AKA

Grand Jury Reform Act of 2015

Official Title

To provide that in the case of a law enforcement officer who uses deadly force against a person, and thereby causes the death of that person, a hearing shall be conducted before a judge to determine whether there is probable cause for the State to bring criminal charges against the law enforcement officer relating to the death of the person, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 21st, 2015
    Yes, we should be able to see what is happening in the system of justice that supposedly exists in our country.
    Like (6)
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    The statistics prove that the current grand jury process is broken. This kind of transparency will greatly help prevent further tragedies through greater scrutiny. Government, in general should be transparent in any case where public safety is not in danger from the release of the information.
    Like (4)
    Follow
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    This legislation isn't being put forth for any other reason than political fodder. Our Grand Jury system, while not perfect, does work. This bill isn't doing anything except giving politicians a "see I told you so" moment if the bill doesn't pass. It's shameful and, a large reason why our government isn't getting anything done in districts with politicians in it like this.
    Like (3)
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    Transparency always improves the process
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    Way too cozy of a relationship between DAs and cops for anything even close to a fair process for all of us plebs.
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    all government actions should be open to public examination!
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    a grand jury sees all evidence and makes a decision based on that evidence. The media speculations that go on are fueled by fear and sensationalizing unsubstantiated facts for ratings. More transparency and public interaction isn't needed, because there will never be enough to satisfy everyone.
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    The grand jury has become a rubber stamp for the establishment when it should be the first threshold of justice.
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    We don't need a bill to place another crutch on our Law Enforcement. Common sense should dictate when an officer of the law is assaulted by a criminal element, the officer has every right to defend his own life from the garbage in our society.
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    No, we need to not tolerate the thuggery!
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    not perfect but should serve the purpose for which it was intended
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    The grand jury is supposed to be governed by the people . In fact the whole. Kurt system is wrong for a long time now . Get the BAR out. It answers to the crown ! Or the politicians that do . The people of the 50 states need to get their grand juries up and juror pools ready to go . We have worked on this ... tired of the people being denied due process . Judges are doing everything without juries . www.nationallibertyalliance.org more Americans needed. You cannot run a republic without the people understanding that they need to participate and how. We offer free constitutional courses, civics. Sheriffs need this and we offer it.
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    But I do think that grand jurors should have to go through a federally set vetting process.
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    Grand juries are not trials. Making them more transparent to the public opens up the opportunity for bias and lobbying for a particular decision. The system isn't broken, so it doesn't need fixing
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    I don't care how costly it is, but prosecutors MUST be bound by Grand Jury decisions.
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    To avoid corrupt grand jury proceedings in which the prosecutor controls the outcome.
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    Public pressure on grand jurors to make correct and sensible choice and prosecutors would be less prone to give false or misleading facts.
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    the grand jury concept is exactly what it is leave it or get rid of it
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    There are flaws within our legal system. We know that. I'm not sure it's with the grand jury proceedings. I think attention to and more responsible jurists is where the focus should lie. Having a system originating in 5 century Greece can be problematic, I just don't know what changes can be made within a jury system.
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    It seems like it will be another reason for cops to think through their actions more.
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