Friday, April 22, 2011

Editorial: Protect Grand Jury System

Posted at 12:09 AM on Sunday, Apr. 10, 2011

It was with dismay that I read the April 7 Fresno Bee editorial on proposed legislation to change the civil grand jury system.

Often referred to as the people's "watchdog" over government affairs, the grand jury, composed of 19 citizen volunteers, is the constitutionally mandated body charged with the responsibility of investigating and monitoring local government operations to make them more transparent, efficient and effective.

As a member of the 2003-2004 Fresno County grand jury, I agree with the editorial that eliminating the element of confidentiality can only hamper the effectiveness of grand juries.

It is confidentiality that allows for the candid exchange between grand juries and those that testify before them, and it accords those that appear before grand juries a reassuring layer of protection. Loss of confidentiality would result in fact gathering that is inhibited, sanitized, and worst, incomplete.

Grand juries already function under safeguards. There is a policy and procedures manual. All reports clear three layers of review: the issuing committee, the editing committee, and the whole grand jury. Grand juries operate under the supervision of the presiding judge.

AB 622 will not enhance the grand jury system; it will diminish it.

Robert Gutierrez


Read more:

No comments: