Grand juries should be the answer to many of our problems with government corruption. I began writing about this a month ago.
Waverly Settles of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office referred me to Georgia Code:
O.C.G.A. 15-12-100 (2010)
15-12-100. Procedure for impaneling special grand jury; number of jurors; foreman; powers of jury
(a) The chief judge of the superior court of any county to which this part applies, on his own motion or on petition of any elected public official of the county or of a municipality lying wholly or partially within the county, may request the judges of the superior court of the county to impanel a special grand jury for the purpose of investigating any alleged violation of the laws of this state or any other matter subject to investigation by grand juries as provided by law.
(b) The chief judge of the superior court of the county shall submit the question of impaneling a special grand jury to the judges of the superior court of the county and, if a majority of the total number of the judges vote in favor of impaneling a special grand jury, the members of a special grand jury shall be drawn in the manner prescribed by Code Section 15-12-62. Any special grand jury shall consist of not less than 16 nor more than 23 persons. The foreman of any special grand jury shall be selected in the manner prescribed by Code Section 15-12-67.
(c) While conducting any investigation authorized by this part, investigative grand juries may compel evidence and subpoena witnesses; may inspect records, documents, correspondence, and books of any department, agency, board, bureau, commission, institution, or authority of the state or any of its political subdivisions; and may require the production of records, documents, correspondence, and books of any person, firm, or corporation which relate directly or indirectly to the subject of the investigation being conducted by the investigative grand jury.
This means that when I get any elected public official from the county to petition the Chief Judge, every county judge will have to review the charges and vote. So, I set out to get some honest county elected official to submit my petition. Even if the judges refuse to do it, we will at least add another big list of dishonest judges to our list. But maybe, just maybe, they will do the right thing. The only government official who responded was my state representative, Harry Geisinger. We met for an hour three weeks ago. He promised me a response in a week. he has ignored my attempts to reach him for the past two weeks.
I will continue to try to reach him and see others, but I will also employ Plan B and C.
What I am doing may be great news for everyone in the 13 states that have county grand juries. In the U.S., the states of Arizona, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey and Oregon have grand juries at the county level.
County grand juries develop areas to examine by two avenues: juror interests, and public complaints. Complaints filed by the public are kept confidential. The protection of whistleblowers is one of the primary reasons for the confidential nature of the grand jury’s work.
Every state uses grand juries for at least something, so if you have a corruption issue, investigate your state laws.
Assistant U.S. attorney and former associate Independent Counsel Miquel Rodriguez was once asked if the members of a grand jury would be able to protect the public from corrupt officials, he replied, â€œTheyâ€™re all youâ€™ve got.â€ Rodriguez advised, â€œEmpowering the grand jury, [by] letting them know what they can demand, what they should be wary of, what their independent subpoena powers are, whether they have the authority to ask questions on their own in the grand jury. The real check and balance is the grand jury, the common person, selected at random.â€
Although the power of the grand jury in the United States has been diminished, it is still a powerful tool available to the citizens. Grand jurors can issue subpoenas and question witnesses and they may pursue an investigation anywhere it leads. Grand jurors can even subpoena and question federal prosecutors. They can write a report and ask the judge to make the report public. Grand jurors still have the power to refuse to indict citizens.
Power of Presentment
Article V of the Bill of Rights says in part as follows: â€œNo person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . . .â€
â€œA presentment, properly speaking, is an accusation, made by a grand jury of its own mere motion, of an offence upon its own observation and knowledge, or upon evidence before it, and without any bill of indictment laid before it at the suit of the government.â€
We’ve all heard about grand juries returning indictments. That’s when a government attorney presents evidence to a grand jury, and the grand jury decides if there is enough evidence for criminal charges to be pursued. With a Presentment, the Grand Jury brings the charges. The idea behind Presentments was that the citizens could keep government honest.
Well, that hasn’t happened! The power of Presentment has been all but lost because grand juries are controlled by the government establishment. Grand jurors probably do not even realize they have this power. One of the key initiatives of our effort to minimize corruptionn and bring honesty back to government is to ensure that every grand jury exercises the power of Presentment when appropriate.
BUT the grand jury in Fulton County has exercised the power of Presentment in recent years, so it is firmly established as the law in Fulton County and Georgia.
With a presentment, the charges originate in the grand jury. The grand jury discovers an offense on its own. It observes and collects evidence of the offense, and the government has nothing to do with it. The grand jury is independent. The court then prepares the indictment based on the presentment.
This is a way for the PEOPLE to address judicial corruption. The government would normally try to block an effort such as this, but Fulton County has established this as precedent. This is why my effort is so important. If I can use the prior use of Presentment by the Fulton County Grand Jury to open the door to their review of the evidence against these judges, we could end up with a precedent that will strike a huge blow for justice in Georgia and perhaps elsewhere.
Randy Kelton of RuleofLawRadio.com on Grand Juries:
Grand jurors tend to come in, receive presentments from the District Attorney, go into secret deliberations, deliver the indictments to the court, then go home. When an ordinary citizen appears before them it is always an event; they tend to really pay attention. And, when you make allegations against the officials they have been working with, they especially pay attention. This is what will surprise you the most the first time you sit in front of a grand jury. You are an anomaly, something unique in their experience and your very presence tends to entice their attention and curiosity.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you get an indictment or not. Just going to them and asking for the indictment puts public officials on the dime. They have to sweat the time between presentment and no-bill, and even that is not necessarily the end as you can go back with more information, or to the next grand jury.
The grand jury is the weak underbelly of a corrupt judicial system as it is out of the control of the courts. Grand juries are, literally, a fouth branch of government, not beholden to the courts, legislature, or executive. No one has control over them and that makes the public officials crazy. They have to utilize them but they can’t control them. Grand jurors are your peers not theirs.
Also, anything you are not forbidden to do under law, you may do. In law, there is nothing restricting your right go approach grand jury members beyond common civility. I wouldn’t try to approach a grand jury member in the toilet, for instance. Otherwise, there are no legal restrictions. If anyone tells you that you have to do anything before going to a grand jury you tell them to go scratch. I regularly tell them I am going to approach the grand jury, the only thing you get to decide is rather or not you are going to interfere with me or not.
Now that it is clear you can go to the grand jury with impunity, lets consider the best way to get it done.
If you have a complaint against a public official and take it to the police, they will give it to the prosecuting attorney and he will promptly throw it in the trash. You can present a complaint to some magistrate, and s/he will forward it to the prosecutor and he will promptly throw it in the trash. You could always present the complaint directly to the prosecutor, and he will throw it in the trash.
I suggest you find out which district court has the grand jury. I counties with more than one judicial district, the courts will rotate grand juries. So you find out which court has a grand jury then go to the court’s coordinator, or clerk, or secretary (whatever they call the person in your jurisdiction) and check the court calender to find out when the grand jury will next meet. You then show up when the grand jury is in the building. They will meet in a special room and will have a sullen looking bailiff in front of the door. You can tell the bailiff that you have business with the grand jury, but that often gets the bailiff to call the prosecuting attorney who will often try to interfere. You can do that but it often creates allegations against the prosecutor. I only do that when I want to file charges against the prosecuting attorney in order to disqualify him so that I can go to the grand jury with complaints against him.
If I have complaints against another public official, this is often a good strategy, as the prosecutor will try to talk the grand jury out of indicting fellow officials. If you file against the prosecutor then go before the grand jury with charges against him, or her, the prosecutor will not be present, neither will any of his or her minions. Then you present the prosecutor and when you are done you can say, “Oh Yes, I just happened to have these complaints as well.” You then present the ones you really care about.
When you go to the grand jury, you need a verified (notarized) criminal complaint in hand. That gives the grand jury notice that a crime has been committed. It is also a good idea to have a written statement of facts, also verified so they can read it at their leisure.
This is all you need. It is not difficult and will be a very rewarding experience. What you will find is, when you charge into this lion’s den, he was a pussycat all along.
Let’s talk about grand jury access. It was intended by our founders that grand juries be a primary protection against abuse of power. They, therefore, set grand juries aside from all other branches of government. Gran juries are in fact a forth branch, not beholden to the judiciary, legislative, or executive branches. They are intended to be a primary protection for the people and no restrictions were enacted to interfere with access to them. Any rule making by any other branch of government means nothing when it would have the effect of abridging access the grand jury. If a judge or prosecutor, or any other official tries to in any way interfere with your access to the grand jury, you simply prepare criminal allegations against them. I have yet to have any public official try to deny me access to a grand jury. They huff and puff, but when you instruct them to stand aside, they do.
There are a number of ways of getting to a grand jury, some better than others. You can file a complaint with the local police, but the police will simply forward the complaint to the prosecuting attorney who will throw it in the trash. You could also present the complaint to some magistrate, but he will simply forward it to the prosecuting attorney who will throw it in the trash, or you can present it directly to the prosecuting attorney who will also throw it in the trash.
Those are methods I obviously donâ€™t recommend. I suggest you ask around and find out which district court is hosting the grand jury then go to the Judges co-ordinator, or clerk, or whatever they call the Judges secretary and ask her to check the court calendar for the date the grand jury is scheduled to meet next. If you get any questions tell the clerk you are helping your child with a term research paper or some other nonsense.
Once you know when they are going to meet, you can approach the bailiff when the grand jury is in session and tell him to instruct the foreman that you have business with the grand jury. The one potential problem with this is, the bailiff may go get the prosecuting attorney. This can often generate criminal allegations against the district attorney and unless you want to disqualify the district attorney, I suggest another strategy.
The grand jury deliberated in secret, however, once they finish, they come up to the court and present the indictments to the court in open court. I suggest you go sit in the court and wait for the grand jury to assemble for the purpose of presenting the indictments to the clerk in open court. Once the hearing is completed the judge will ask the foreman if the grand jury has any further business. When the foreman responds that he does not you rise and address the grand jury telling them you have business with them. You can then advise them that you have criminal allegations to present to them.
Remember, the grand jury is a fourth branch of government and not beholden to the court. At this point, the judge is without jurisdiction or control. If he attempts to interfere, you simply ask him to stand down and inform him that the business you have is with the grand jury and none of his.
I know this may sound a bit outrageous, but remember, you are not bound to the court in this instance, the court is bound to you. Most of us only experience the courts when the court has some charge hanging over our heads. We are accustomed to having the judge tell us what to do and when to do it. When you address the grand jury, the business there is not that of the judge or the court and the judge will usually know it. Besides, the last thing he wants to do is look like a jerk in front of his grand jury, just in case you are there to complain about him.
When you actually go before a grand jury, I suspect you will be surprised. You will find an exceptionally receptive audience. Grand juries are accustomed to prosecutors coming before them and presenting cases, then they go into deliberation and vote on the indictments, then they go into court and present them to the court and go home until the next time.
When you appear before them it is a new experience and you will have their attention just by the fact that you went to the trouble of being present. When you start making allegations against public officials, you will have their rapt attention. They really do care about the system. If what you are telling them would sound wrong to an ordinary citizen, it will sound wrong to the grand jury members, as they are ordinary citizens.
After your first presentation, your whole perspective will change. You will realize that the silver bullet we all have been looking for has been there all the time. When we start presenting public officials on a regular basis, things will change fast.
If you present to the grand jury and do not get an indictment, do not feel as though you have lost. I assure you, just getting there is a win, a big win. Consider the public official you are presenting. He has simply done what they always do and all of a sudden some citizen is in front of a grand jury trying to get him arrested, not fired or simply reprimanded, but put in jail. Sure, he figures they probably won’t indict him but you never know what a grand jury will do and he has now idea what you are telling them. Heck, you could be lying to them, just like prosecutors do.
Bill Windsor’s Plan B
I am extremely disappointed by my state representative’s apparent lack of intestinal forttude. So, I will continue Plan A (get an elected county official to sign my Petition), but I will also pursue Plan B.
I will be going to the office where the Grand Jury meets, and I will be asking to speak to the Grand Jury.
If I am denied, I will stand in the public lobby outside the Grand Jury room, and I will hand to everyone I see a letter explaining why I need to speak to the Grand Jury, educating them about their power of Presentment.
William M. Windsor