Grand Juries Are a Farce— but Not in Ferguson

Prosecutor's move points way to fairer process: David Feige
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2014 12:27 PM CST
Grand Juries Are a Farce— but Not in Ferguson
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Grand juries were invented to protect citizens from rushed and unfair prosecution, but today, they do quite the opposite, writes David Feige at Slate. Prosecutors normally play a "controlling role" in the grand jury process, taking charge of who's allowed in meetings and presenting jurors with "as little information as possible" to make a conviction easier, should the case go to trial. In short, the grand jury "is entirely a one-sided show where the decisions are a foregone conclusion." But that's not true in Ferguson, where prosecutor Robert McCulloch has made a rare move in the case of Darren Wilson: He's stepped out of the way of the process, thus "throw(ing) open the grand jury’s doors to all the relevant evidence."

McCulloch doesn't want to be caught in the middle of a decision that will meet with strong opposition—either from police or the people of Ferguson—regardless of how it turns out. The result is that both sides will get to present their case to the grand jury. McCulloch may have made his move for "cynical" reasons, but it should serve as an example in grand jury cases. "When McCulloch opted to create a system designed to look fair, he may have taken the first steps toward a system that actually is fair," Feige writes. Click for his full piece. (Read more Ferguson, Missouri stories.)

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