The RoanokeSlant

This file is a personal journal of commentary of examples of the Roanoke Times and Liberal Media Slant...... lbhagen@aol.com .......The Google Cookie Notice is required by the EU! So much for US Sovereignty!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

 

Sealed Grand Jury Proceedings Made Public

Click for 2-19-10 Update from the Franklin News Post, Rocky Mount Va.
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http://www.thefranklinnewspost.com/article.cfm?ID=15603
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Multiple articles in the Roanoke Times detailing material contained in a publicly released Grand Jury investigation into the Franklin County Sheriffs Office.
Roanoke Times, 2-14-10, Pg Horiz 3: Airing dirty secrets: commentary by Ms. Strother, member of the Roanoke Times editorial board explaining why releasing Grand Jury files is good for their newspaper business.
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Release of Franklin County Grand Jury Files to the public has resulted in major media and political repercussions and many questions including:
1. Grand Jury files are usually, by law, kept secret because the proceedings and data and testimony do not meet even the most minimum level of testing for truth and accuracy. There are no rules of evidence, no credible cross-examination of testimony, no determination of witness bias or prejudice or hearsay evidence or personal opinions and reflections. There is no process to keep the examination focused on the legal issue being examined, thereby enabling an expedition into whatever the jury foreman finds of interest to him.
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2. It’s because of the absence of due-process that a common expressed view is that a prosecutor can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich.
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3. In this case the Grand Jury returned an indictment for a misdemeanor charge related to maintenance of records relating to the Sheriff’s office for a Sheriff that just took office. It is very unusual for Grand Juries to examine misdemeanor charges.
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4. The Circuit Court Judge released the entire Grand Jury file to the public without explaining why the rules for keeping Grand Jury files sealed were being over-shadowed by the public interest for a single misdemeanor violation charge.
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5. It’s not clear why the Judge decided to override the requirement to keep the file sealed and let a public trial establish the relevant facts and the validity of the charge. The question now is what was that compelling reason?
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6. The State Assembly has reacted to this question by formally requesting information from the Judge prior to his reappointment to the bench.
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7. Based on the lack of a specific objective (see Art. 37 below), the Grand Jury conducted a wide ranging foray that has resulted in a treasure trove of unsubstantiated tales and descriptions that the media are peddling as valid facts.
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Relevant Sections of The Virginia Grand Jury Handbook:
http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/circuit/handbook_grand_jurors.pdf
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1.2 The Grand Jury does not hear both sides of the case and does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused person. This is determined by a "petit (trial) jury" if and when the accused is tried later. The Grand Jury only determines whether there is probable cause that the accused committed the crime and should stand trial.
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6. (c) Misdemeanors. A Grand Jury usually does not deal with minor crimes (misdemeanors) or with traffic offenses. Prosecution of these offenses usually is begun by the police or the Commonwealth's Attorney on a Warrant or a Summons.
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13.(d) Accused as a Witness. The accused person named in the bill of indictment will not be listed as a witness, nor will any witnesses favorable to him probably be listed. This is because the Grand Jury does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, but only determines whether the testimony of the witnesses produced by the State establishes probable cause to require the accused to stand trial.
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19. Secrecy
The law provides that "every member of a regular or special grand jury must keep secret all proceedings which occurred during sessions of the grand jury."
VA Code Section 19.2-192
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37. Again it should be emphasized that the Special Grand Jury has been convened to investigate and report its findings on some specific isolated condition believed to exist in the community. Its findings and recommendations, if any, should relate specifically to the subject committed to it. It is not involved in a general moral crusade.
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