The indictment of Corey, which was handed down last week (see www.citizensgrandjury.com), charges Corey with intentionally withholding photographic evidence of the injuries to George Zimmerman's head in the warrant she allegedly rushed to issue under oath, in an effort to boost her reelection prospects. At the outset of this case, black activists such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who whipped up wrath against Zimmerman, demanded that he be charged with murder, after local police had thus far declined to arrest him pending investigation.
Following Corey's criminal complaint charging Zimmerman, legal experts such as Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz condemned her for falsely signing an arrest affidavit under oath, which intentionally omitted exculpatory evidence consisting of the photographs showing the injuries Zimmerman sustained, and rushing to charge him with second degree murder under political pressure. Dershowitz called her actions unethical and themselves crimes (http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/drop-george-zimmerman-murder-charge-article-1.1080161).
Larry Klayman, a former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor, a Florida lawyer since 1977, and now the "citizens' prosecutor" presided over the Ocala grand jury and said this: "The Supreme Court has confirmed that the grand jury belongs to the American people, not the three branches of government. (504 U.S. 36, 48 (1992) (quoting United States v. R. Enterprises, Inc., 498 U.S. 292, 297 (1991)). By indicting Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, the people are exercising their God given rights, recognized by our Founding Fathers, to mete out justice when the political and legal establishment subverts the rule of law. Hopefully, this indictment will serve as a warning to the political and legal establishment that they are not above the law. Ironically, Corey will now be tried and likely convicted for her alleged crimes – which resulted in Zimmerman being charged under false pretenses, now coming home to roost during Zimmerman's on-going trial. Corruption cannot be tolerated, particularly by law enforcement officers who are elected by the people to serve their ends, not the law enforcement officer's political ends."
For more commentary and information contact:
While citizen convened Grand Juries are not common in modern times they still have the full force of the Constitution and law. Educating modern prosecuting attorneys and judges may be necessary. Here is a law professor’s statement on Grand Juries.
“Grand juries also acted as a sword, seeking out corruption and preferring charges on their own. The classic example of a grand jury’s acting as a sword is a runaway grand jury in New York in the 1930’s; the grand jurors ignored prosecutors and embarked upon their own investigation into municipal corruption. They eventually began cooperating with Thomas E. Dewey, a prosecutor whom they felt they could trust, and returned indictments against a variety of defendants, including well-known Mafia members.
As these examples may illustrate, the rationale for employing grand juries is in some senses analogous to the rationale for using trial jurors; both interject the common sense perspective of the average man or woman into the criminal justice system. For this reason, the grand jury has been described as "the voice of the community," in that it interjects a lay perspective into the earliest part of the criminal justice system, i.e., the investigative and charging processes. When the grand jury functions as it was intended to, the grand jurors both collaborate with prosecutors and act as a check on them. As a check, the grand jurors can either decline to bring charges sought by a prosecutor or decide to bring charges that have not been sought by a prosecutor.
The grand jury – which has also been described as the "Grand Inquisition" – conducts its proceedings in secret and has the power to subpoena witnesses and physical evidence, i.e., to require that testimony and evidence be brought before it. The failure to comply with a grand jury subpoena results in one being held in civil contempt and incarcerated until the witness complies; currently, the record for time served due to civil contempt is eight years. The Supreme Court has refused to apply the Miranda rule to the grand jury, so there is no right to counsel and no right to silence when one is subpoenaed by a grand jury. Witnesses can invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination (which is much narrower than the Miranda rule) and any applicable evidentiary privileges as the basis for refusing to testify or otherwise comply with a grand jury’s demands.
The most unfortunate aspect of the modern grand jury is that because grand jurors tend to be ignorant of their role, they fall under the sway of prosecutors and, to use Sol Wachsler’s infamous phrase, are "willing to indict a ham sandwich" if asked to do so. The secrecy surrounding the role of the grand jury makes it very much a mystery to the general public; citizens’ only image of jurors comes from media and news portrayals of trial jurors, and trial jurors are entirely passive. This has subtly changed the functioning of grand juries over the last century or so, with the result being that they are far less independent than they used to be. This, in turn, is an unfortunate state of affairs, as it undermines the purpose of utilizing the "voice of the community."
Susan W. Brenner, NCR Distinguished Professor of Law & Technology, University of Dayton School of Law, Dayton, Ohio. E-mail: Susan.Brenner@notes.udayton.edu