Home California Governor Brown Signs Bill Banning Grand Juries in Fatal Police Actions

Governor Brown Signs Bill Banning Grand Juries in Fatal Police Actions

by ECT

Sacramento – Almost exactly one year after a Ferguson, MO. police officer was accused of killing unarmed black teen Michael Brown, Governor Jerry Brown announced his signing of SB 227 authored by state Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D- Los Angeles) into law.

Widely supported by a considerable coalition of activists and public interest groups, SB 227 calls for the elimination of use of a criminal grand jury to investigate cases where a member of law enforcement is alleged to have caused the death of a suspect, either by a shooting or by use of excessive force. It has been heralded by many as a necessary step towards restoring accountability and transparency to a system of justice that operates almost entirely outside any kind of meaningful oversight.

Senator Holly Mitchell

Senator Holly Mitchell

“One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB 227 makes sense,” said Mitchell.  “The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”

Criminal grand jury proceedings differ from traditional trials in a variety of ways; they are not adversarial. No judges or defense attorneys participate. There are no cross-examinations of witnesses, and there are no objections. How prosecutors explain the law to the jurors and what prosecutors say about the evidence are subject to no oversight. And the proceedings are shrouded in secrecy.

“Communities want a criminal justice system that is transparent and which holds all of the players—law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, accountable when there are civilian deaths resulting from the conduct of officers. Criminal grand juries do neither,” said LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, northern California’s first African American woman judge, and former San Jose police auditor. “I applaud Governor Brown for doing the right thing and sending a message to all Californians that his administration wants our criminal justice system to be fair, transparent and accountable.”

Groups representing communities of color have been especially vocal in their support of bills designed to bring greater transparency to law enforcement operations and justice proceedings.

Under California law, all felony cases which go to a trial by jury must first undergo a screening process consisting of either a “preliminary examination” or an “indictment” by a grand jury. The choice as to which route is taken is up to the prosecutor alone. SB 227 is supported by the CA chapter of the NAACP, the CA Alliance of Boys and Men of Color, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund among others.

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deb alw Aug 12, 2015 - 1:26 pm

Eliminate all Grand Jury proceedings then. Eliminating them because an officer is doing his job, is prejudice and very frightening. The Grand Jury is there to decide if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.. Which is the correct process.. BROWN you are a fucking freak!.I hope one day one of the Gang bangers like Mike Brown shoot you dead..

deb Aug 12, 2015 - 1:37 pm

What a fool. In the case of Mike Brown, the prosecutor didn’t feel there was enough evidence to file charges, so he took it to the Grand Jury for another opinion. I suppose this will push it quicker through the system. Police officers shoot people that misbehave, plain and simple..

Dave Blake Aug 12, 2015 - 3:03 pm

Lets consider this rationally. A murder trial costs about 1 million dollars. JB has now taken the Criminal Justice process away from “the people” and placed it in the hands of an elected official who will most likely pander to media bias and the typical outrage of the people to these events. So, instead of making a fair / balanced decision as to whether or not to proceed, the DA will simply move to trial (or face potential political turmoil) – increasing costs on cases that should never have been charged. How fast will this decrease the DA’s budget? Also, doesn’t this create a two tiered CJ system where there is one avenue for the police and one for everyone else. Seems like a disparate CJ system under which the first conviction should go directly to the supreme court as being biased, unfair and completely dissimilar to how others are judged? Public opinion, financial considerations (those of any elected official) and media influence should not drive criminal cases – this will clearly allow for that to happen.

Dick Black Aug 13, 2015 - 7:25 am

This nutcase Brown and his libtard cronies should have established a kangaroo court for police-involved shootings while they were at it. Well, for police shootings that involve a white officer and some ghetto rat “victim.”

Al the Plumber (@Al_the_Plumber) Aug 13, 2015 - 9:34 am

LIBIDIOCY gets ever more absurd.

They routinely use cases with correct results to claim the procedures used in those cases should not be used!

Tony McDonald Aug 13, 2015 - 11:22 am

I used to live in a country where everyone was treated equally under the law! You bet the Supreme Court will blow this one out of the water.

Mike Aug 13, 2015 - 11:41 am

So much for due process…

W.Beecham Aug 13, 2015 - 4:49 pm

Give then what they want De Policing . Let the animals run wild , take your time arrive in time to mark the bodies, run the yellow tape, and do the first responder report. Go home hug your wife /kid/girlfriend/husband, pull the pin at twenty and run like hell for a non crazy , state then. God be with you guys and watch each others back. Damn next thing is a cop will not be able to testify for a cop.

Leo Balla Aug 14, 2015 - 6:52 am

WTF? “One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB 227 makes sense,” She says. I’m not a lawyer and I know that this bill is 100% unconstitutional, the 5th amendment says you can not hand down a felony indictment without a Grand Jury investigation. This bill would take away LE constitutional rights.

The other idiot judge says that this makes things “fair” How is this fair if it takes away the rights of some people and not others? How is it transparent if there is no precidings to view?

This is awful, this is terrible, I’m dumbfounded that these supposedly educated legal experts have completely circumvented the US constitution and think it’s a good idea simply because a handful of criminals have died.

divegroupie Aug 14, 2015 - 8:18 am

This is so frightening. On Meet The Press the other day, one of the show’s panelists, a black woman – I think her last name was McGhee – said that Michael Brown was “murdered.” That would make Officer Wilson a “murderer.” There was clear, forensic evidence that Michael Brown attacked Officer Wilson and she has decided that Wilson is a murderer. This is the attitude: if you’re a cop doing your job in the most crime ridden part of the city and you have to protect your life – you’re a murderer. I’m so disgusted that I’m going to vote Republican for the first time in my life. I’ll have to accept all the evil they do because of the one issue. I am now a one issue voter.

Mppaul Aug 14, 2015 - 1:44 pm

“The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”

Below is a link to the Department of Justice Investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. This may be why charges were never brought against the officer.



Steven Aug 14, 2015 - 6:03 pm

Why would you want to be an officer in today’s world? When our officers lay down the good citizens will stand up to the politicians and remove them from office.

Steve Aug 14, 2015 - 6:41 pm

Idiots dues process by elected idiots. Clueless of the job in LE.

Bill S. Preston Aug 15, 2015 - 9:51 am

Lawyers win!!!

Ger San Aug 18, 2015 - 1:47 pm

You do understand this is completely unconstitutional, don’t you? I suspect the legislators involved know that, but why let what’s legal get in the way of a good grandstanding opportunity.

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