Local News

Senate Bill Calls for Grand Jury Reform

Posted May 22, 2007

— A Mecklenburg County senator is sponsoring a bill that calls for written documentation of all grand jury proceedings, which are currently considered confidential and are unrecorded.

Senate Bill 1131, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter, also calls for grand jurors to report any possible prosecutorial misconduct to a judge.

The issue of grand jury proceedings in North Carolina was brought forth, in part, Clodfelter said, after after three former Duke University lacrosse players were indicted on charges of raping, sexually assaulting and kidnapping an exotic dancer during a team party in March 2006.

Charges against the three men -- Collin Finnerty, David Evans and Reade Seligmann -- were subsequently dismissed over the next year as the case unfolded and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declared them innocent of all charges. Evidence, Cooper said, was inconsistent with the accuser's stories.

Why the grand jury decided to indict the three men, however, will never be known.

"There's no telling what those grand jurors were told, and we'll never have a way of knowing," Raleigh attorney Joe Cheshire, who represented Evans, said. "We do know they weren't told the truth."

The Duke lacrosse case is an example as to why Clodfelter wants to change the law.

"In the federal system, and in most other states, they do produce transcripts of grand jury proceedings."

Garry Frank, with the North Carolina State Conference of District Attorneys, said the organization does not oppose Clodfelter's call for recording grand jury proceedings but opposes the change that would give grand jurors the ability to report prosecutors for misconduct.

Unlike many other states, prosecutors do not go before grand juries in North Carolina. Only investigators do.

Frank said a prosecutor should not be held accountable for what a law enforcement officer may say inadvertently.

"It seems to be a little unfair to pointedly talk about a district attorney's misconduct when he's not present at the grand jury proceedings," Frank said.

If the change is made, Frank said, prosecutors must be allowed inside the proceedings to explain the case.

Late Tuesday, Clodfelter said he pulled the bill out of a Senate committee to make some changes. He said he wants to keep the part about recording grand jury testimony, but he want to make changes about reporting prosecutorial misconduct.


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  • tbajr May 24, 2007

    The grand jury should not be controlled by investigators or by
    prosecutor's, yes there should be a record kept, and those that
    give testimony should be held accountable. By the people and for
    the people, not by government!!

  • ghwhitaker1_old May 23, 2007

    " Sick of Thugs 3" Is there some reason you think you shouldn't have to record your probable cause to a magistrate?

  • bigjim835 May 23, 2007

    The grand jury system as we know it now is nothing in the world but a rubber stamp for the police and DA,s. The accused nor his attorney is allowed to hear what is being inside the grand jury room. When only one side is heard the DA has a lock on which way the decision will be. A fairer system is needed at least one that will allow grand jury members to hear another version of the events.

  • mvnull May 22, 2007

    You might just as well use this forum instead of a grand jury. The results wouldn't be any differen, and it would be cheaper.

  • sick of thugs 3 May 22, 2007

    Whats next? Are we going to have to record our probable cause given to the magistrate?

  • ghwhitaker1_old May 22, 2007

    In the early days of our country, the Grand Jury protected citizens from the government. As it has evolved, it is now the prosecutors' tool, and is a pretty worthless waste of time. In September of last year I happened to be walking down the same hallway with the Grand Jury officer, when the foreperson of the Grand Jury came up and said to the officer "tell them [the police officers who were scheduled to give Grand Jury testimony] to spare us the details, we know what to do". She was the foreperson of the Grand Jury, she didn't want to be bothered with details, and she already knew what she was going to do without hearing any details. She pretty well confirmed all my suspicions about the Grand Jury process. Grand Jury proceedings, officers' testimony and member questions, should be recorded and put in the public record. There is no legitimate reason for the process to be shrouded in secrecy.

  • Steve Crisp May 22, 2007

    And it only took some elected officials 231 years to realize that our founding fathers may have made a mistake when they came up with the original concept of the grand jury. Makes me proud. :)