Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Return of the "Runaway" Grand Jury

I just came across this article on the Chronicle's website which says that 6 of the former members of the so-called "Runaway" Grand Jury that heard the David Medina case have filed a law suit.

Interesting.

Where did they file the suit? Who is the suit against? The whole thing seems very strange.

Apparently their demands are that they 1) be allowed to talk about the evidence they heard; and 2) be allowed to speak to whatever new grand jury is empanelled to hear the case.

As to issue #1, I'm very curious as to whether or not they actually are bound by the grand jury's rules of secrecy, now that it has been revealed that it was improperly empanelled. It would seem to me (and this is just me arm-chair quarterbacking here) that if they weren't properly sworn in, then they weren't really a grand jury under the law after their initial term expired. If that's the case, do the rules of secrecy still apply? I don't know what the law officially says on the issue, and I've got too much going on right now to go look it up.

So, Smarter People Than Me, please let me know the answer to that question and get back to us.

As to issue #2, I don't think that anybody can demand that they be seen by a grand jury. From my experience, the Grand Jurors who are sitting on the case are the only people who can decide whether or not they want to hear from a witness. The prosecutors can't make them listen to their witnesses. The defense attorneys can't make them listen to their clients. The Grand Jurors make the call, and I would be rather surprised if any grand jury would want to hear from members of the original grand jury. I could be wrong about that, though.

But for the meantime, I have to agree with Terry Yates when he says "I don't think it's [the lawsuit's] worth the paper its printed on."

3 comments:

jigmeister said...

Terry is right. I think a judge would essentially have to immunize the grand jury, which he couldn't do without the DA, or enjoin the office from prosecuting. Both would be great fodder for mandamus.
BTW, anybody know where the suit was filed? Oh no, here comes Hoyt!! I guess all of the above would be wrong.

I do remember, years ago a GJ didn't want to indict, but wanted to state their findings. I prepared a detailed report and the foreman signed it, but it was sealed in the state's no billed file. I can't even remember what authority I had to do that, maybe...none!

Ron in Houston said...

I haven't seen it or heard anything about it, but what comes to my mind is a suit for a declaratory judgment along the lines that AHCL talks about.

Judicially declaring that they are were not proper grand jurors would free them from secrecy.

Oh course, I'm just pulling this out of my back side, but that would be one legal strategy I'd consider if I were representing them.

hcresident said...

The purpose of grand jury secrecy is to protect the accused. If we didn't have it any grand juror could smear any political opponent, someone they don't like, etc. This is a huge pandora's box that shouldn't be opened. For instance, a grand juror could decide to make waves to help his brother who is running for political office and slander a potentially innocent person in the process.