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Last week, civil rights activists in Charlotte, NC, were outraged when a Mecklenburg County grand jury declined to indict CMPD officer Randall Kerrick on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell.

It made the news for its rarity as much as its high profile. Fewer than ten cases are returned without an indictment annually, out of thousands. A second grand jury issued an indictment on January 27.

Blindfolded Lady Justice
In a disturbing follow up published yesterday, Feb. 1, 2014, the Charlotte Observer reveals a grand jury system that hands down indictments at the average rate of one every fifty-two seconds.

More below the cloud of secrecy.

Two prominent attorneys, including a former Mecklenburg County prosecutor, didn't mince words. Please do read the full article; it's worth it.

“The entire system is a joke,” said Joe Cheshire, a Raleigh attorney who handles high-profile criminal cases across the state. “There is absolutely no living, breathing person with any kind of intellect who believes that a grand jury could consider and vote on 10 complex issues in the period of time that they use to deliberate on hundreds.”

Charlotte attorney Jim Cooney agrees. Rather than check the power of government, grand juries have become a prosecutor’s ally, he said, “that hands out indictments like they’re boxes of popcorn.”

Read more here:

It's the next paragraph that stopped me cold.
To be sure, last week’s Mecklenburg grand jury handled dozens of routine cases that didn’t require much testimony or discussion. But the group also dealt with the more complicated decision on whether to indict Kerrick, who was arrested Sept. 14 in connection with the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, who was unarmed.
Hold on. WTF is a "routine case?" We're talking life-altering felony indictments here, not traffic tickets. How can any case be "routine" when only one side's evidence is being heard, and the whole thing is a secret anyway?

Cheshire, who represented the defense in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, said

the workload is “absolutely normal” across North Carolina.

“A lot of innocent people get indicted. Lots of people guilty of crimes are indicted on something else and the public is under the misguided impression that it means something,” he said.

Read more here:

Disclaimer: Please note that this case is extremely complicated, and I am neither a lawyer nor a professional journalist. My intention is to get more eyes on an important case that happened in my own community, that has become a national story with implications for every American. All quoted material is linked. I encourage those interested to see the full text and accompanying videos for greater perspective. Expert commentary and constructive criticism are always welcome!
The Daily Kos Firearms Law and Policy group studies actions for reducing firearm deaths and injuries in a manner that is consistent with the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment. If you would like to write about firearms law or policy please send us a Kosmail.

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We have adopted Wee Mama's and akadjian's guidance on communicating.  But most important, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Originally posted to Firearms Law and Policy on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 02:59 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Announcing the grand opening of my Etsy shop, Little Lotte Studio featuring hand-dyed textiles and custom beaded jewelry. Please stop by!

    by SteelerGrrl on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 02:59:34 PM PST

  •  One question (6+ / 0-)

    Why are we shocked?

    I admit that I am (shocked). WTF?!

    But my second Q is, when did they switch to a don't ask/just trust me operating protocol.

    What does the DA say? "Just trust me on these 57 people. I have sufficient evidence."

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 04:03:04 PM PST

  •  Tipped & rec'ed (5+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 05:52:46 PM PST

  •  The concept is that, no matter how easy (or hard) (5+ / 0-)

    "charges" are, "convictions" are always, everywhere "based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt". (Still, I find this particular piece to be a little weird because you sort of are arguing against Grand Juries, when it was ultimately a Grand Jury that approved an Indictment against Randall Kerrick.)

    We almost never use Grand Juries in Utah. But, in my mind, that doesn't mean that we're better off, or worse off. The only thing it means is that Willis Ritter was appointed to the federal bench in Utah in the fifties, and he had a real thing against Grand Juries. I kind of moved on from this whole subject when I was in law school here in the seventies, just because of Judge Ritter. He totally hated Grand Juries, and yet they were ostensibly mandatory. Funny story! The federal courts always have a great backlog of prisoner generated Habeas Corpus stuff on the docket (always, everywhere). So Ritter would wait until a federal prosecutor would demand convening of a Grand Jury. Then, in open Court, on the date of the "Grand Jury case", he would call up ten or twenty Habeas cases, and cut all of those individuals loose from the state prison. That happened a couple of times, and on those couple of times the government lawyers got the message and dismissed their own cases.

    Even today, we just don't do "Grand Jury" in Utah. And I never heard of anyone who could really claim to know for sure why Judge Ritter hated them.

    (Basically the alternative to "Indictment" is "Information" and Informations come from the Prosecutor without the Grand Jury intermediary, so, to me, it's basically "six of one, half a dozen of the other".)

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 07:00:48 PM PST

  •  Sorry, SteelerGrrl, I just saw this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, SteelerGrrl

    Missed it last night.

    It sounds like no one involved in the legal system in NC is actually interested in Justice.  That is very distressing.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 05:14:13 AM PST

  •  Not sure I understand the point (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure I understand the point of your article.

    Is your point that grand juries spend too little time deciding matters of law?  Is your point that there is a problem with how law cases are prosecuted?  Is your point that the prosecution of Officer Kerrick was somehow botched?  

    Should Officer Kerrick receive the same 52 seconds of deliberation that all accused people get?

    You title asks: "Is This Justice?".  The American legal system has little to do with "justice".  Looking for "justice" within the American legal system is like looking for "fair and balanced" at Fox News.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 07:02:39 AM PST

    •  No legal system is really about "justice" (0+ / 0-)

      "Justice" is a subjective measure that will be defined differently by different people in every single case. The system is about Laws and procedures and constructing those laws to be "fair", to provide due process. If you do that then more times than not some form of "justice" is served.

      •  How is this for "fair"? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Well, the article tells us that grand juries on average take 52 seconds to decide which cases go forward.

        Officer Kerrick actually got 104 seconds of grand jury deliberations - twice the amount of other accused people.  (N.B.  Officer Kerrick is white, the guy he killed is black - perhaps this is why he got extra deliberations.)

        Is that "fair"?

        "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

        by Hugh Jim Bissell on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 07:45:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hard to say (0+ / 0-)

          Probably not. I imagine grand juries are overloaded and underfunded resulting in them usually acting as a rubber stamp for the local prosecutor. Operating on the assumption that the case wouldn't make it to them unless it had merit. No doubt this system needs reforms.

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