Monday, November 17, 2014

Whitmire would eliminate 'key man' system for grand juries

State Sen. John Whitmire has filed a bill, SB 135, which would fundamentally alter the grand jury system in Harris and other Texas counties by abolishing the "key man" system and requiring that grand jurors be selected from the regular jury pool.

This would eliminate the perception of insider baseball among the courthouse set when it comes to securing indictments. I'll be interested to hear the arguments that come out against it. The key-man system has been abandoned in most of the country and is at this point an anachronism.

See earlier coverage of the issue from the Texas Tribune, from Texas Monthly, and an excellent series on the topic by Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle (behind paywall) from over the summer:


Anonymous said...

One huge argument against it is that it's going to dramatically reduce minority representation on grand juries in many racially diverse counties. Overall, response to petit jury summons in most counties is bad, and the minority response is even worse. And that's for a one or two day trial.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I can see that argument being made, 12:11.

But do you really think it would reduce diversity "dramatically" or just marginally?

For my part, I don't reckon current grand juries are all that diverse, nor do I think whatever diversity they exhibit has demonstrated any particularly salutary effect.

Anonymous said...

Although I support such change, I believe judicial efficiency, county taxpayer costs, and all other affected entities will vehemently oppose such change. Especially from areas that struggle getting enough jurors to report to the courthouse for jury selection.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to know what's going on in counties other than my own. But locally, I know our judges make a concerted effort through the key man system to ensure that our grand juries are ethnically and geographically diverse. On the other hand, when we use the driver's license and voter registration pools to summon our petit juries, the minority to response is abysmal. And among the minority jurors who do show up, a significant percentage claim excuses for child care, school, etc.

I think 8:45 is probably correct in that it's going to cost more money and there will be an increase in costs to the counties. In order to get a fair cross section of the community, the clerk will have to send out a greater number of summons to get a group large enough and diverse enough for the judges to achieve some balance. And, of course, all of those people who are summoned will have to be paid--at least for a day.

Perhaps the reflex reply is that "other states and the feds don't use the key man system." Perhaps so. But I'd sure like to know the costs incurred in these other jurisdictions and how they manage the poor response rate to jury summons.

With the exception on the shenanigans in Harris County and, more recently with the indictment of the Governor in Travis County, I really haven't heard a lot of hue and cry over how grand juries conduct their business throughout the rest of the state. I'm wondering in this instance if Whitmire's bill constitutes an overreaction to a problem that is more unique to his county.

In any event, it would not surprise me that a change from the current system causes more problems and costs in most Texas counties than it solves.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Anyone that comments on behalf of the taxpayers as a whole and goes on to declare that the cost of doing business in regards to reforming the 'Rigged' portion of criminal justice system (G.Js.) will increase if you remove the Rules allowing and encouraging corruption -

This tidbit will surely make their heads explode.

Humans of all shades of the color wheel, political affiliations, financial situations and regardless of their friggin zip codes have come to the conclusion that they don't want anything to do with: police, prosecutorial & bench related corruption that utilizes fake juries on the front end as a civic fake-out. Fake juries (for those not in the know), are released prior to, or during lunch recess on day one of a so-called jury trial. Released and thanked for their fake service with a complementary real check derived from taxpayers funds. Add that shit up when you get back up from off the floor as you roll around.

Therefore, the cat is out of the bag resulting in folks from all walks of life, collectively deciding that it's best to avoid it by all means, in which can be seen by a decline in voting and / or ignoring the call to participate in potential conspiracies that result in false arrests and subsequent wrongful convictions. Those that still vote, voice their distrust and disgust via: Answers in voir dire that eliminate them. Those with convictions (Guilty or Not Guilty & being 100% Innocent) simply check a box and poof they are out of the game from the comfort of their homes.

Those that have sat on juries both: all the way to lunch recess just to witness a Plea Bargain, despite multiple Ready for Trial notices being filed by both sides, and all the way to verdicts that's linked to wrongful convictions - go on to share their experiences in jury pool waiting rooms, at dinner and at the work place, resulting in others opting out of the 'Rigged' game.

In closing: Sen. Whitmire has finally done the right thing. Why in the hell did he wait so long to do so is anyone's guess and where are the rest of the Sens. & Reps. on this historical bill?
In the long run, those that have grown up accustomed to a Rigged game being their bread & butter, will cry from the shadows about cost and other shit they could careless about.

*If Mr. Whitmire visits GFB, I ask this in advance for his consideration - Please consider a bill aimed at eliminating the rest of the Fakism i.e.,
One plea per criminal charge
and no plea bargains once the very first Ready for Trial notice is filed and if the suspect turned defendant is on probation at time of arrest on a new unrelated charge, he / she is not qualified to be presented a plea bargain at any time and the case is to be disposed of via a jury trial verdict, or charges being dropped where its mandatory that the Probation Officer be in court with a complete file in hand.
Others may have additions in which they feel would assist in making the game fair and transparent that should be addressed that benefits the taxpayers and citizens at large.


TriggerMortis said...

This piece of legislation doesn't stand a chance at passing.

If any of you understood where the real power is, you would understand why judges love the ability to hand pick grand jurors.

Mark Bennett tried to open your eyes years ago but it appears few paid attention then.

Maybe you will now:

Anonymous said...

The voters card that you submit clearly ask what kind of work you do. This is used to pull those in law as jurors. This needs to be removed and is unfair to the defendant for his case to be given a fair trail.