Sunday, November 13, 2016

TPPF: Texas grand juries need more reform

With the pick-a-pal method for selecting grand juries now ended in the Lone Star state, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has a new report out identifying additional problems with grand juries and suggesting reforms which the 85th Texas Legislature could implement when it convenes in January to make them more fair and just.

TPPF recommended creating a right to counsel for certain defendants and witnesses appearing before grand juries, as is the case to greater and lesser extents in 26 other states. For example:
In Colorado, all witnesses have the right to counsel in the grand jury room and will be provided such counsel if they cannot afford it. Attorneys are restricted in a similar manner within the grand jury room as in New York. 
Of those defense attorneys surveyed, 80 percent in New York and 75 percent in Colorado believed their presence in the grand jury room led to fairer questioning. Seventy-six percent of New York defense attorneys and 69 percent of Colorado defense attorneys also believed that the knowledge gained by being present helped them prepare for trial or plea bargaining.  
A majority of prosecutors who were interviewed in both states believed that the practice benefits the administration of justice with one prosecutor stating it “lends an air of legitimacy.” Prosecutors interviewed also stated that defense attorneys rarely interrupt the work of the state and are generally silent observers. They were also “unified” that defense attorneys don’t slow their work.
The same two states both give defendants the right to a grand-jury transcript, which TPPF considered beneficial to the process.
Ninety-two percent of defense attorneys in both states found that the transcripts are helpful in preparing for trial or plea bargaining. The interviews showed that several attorneys agreed the transcripts were beneficial to urge clients who wanted to go to trial, but were then reminded of the finer details of the facts of the case based upon the transcripts. 
Ninety-one percent of defense attorneys in New York and 81 percent in Colorado agreed that transcripts improved the accuracy of future testimony.
TPPF also lamented that, at present, "Texas does not explicitly require prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence during grand jury proceedings," urging such a requirement be created.

Finally, the group recommended precluding taking cases to a grand jury multiple times unless prosecutors have discovered new, material evidence against the defendant.

These are significant and timely reforms, I'm glad to see the state's most prominent conservative think tank championing them.


Anonymous said...

Stop Matt Bingham and Smith county predator's.

Anonymous said...

"Conservative" think tank??? You're kidding right? For reasons that escape me, TPPF consistently comes down on the liberal side of nearly every criminal justice issue. "Soft on crime" think tank would be a more apt description. As an aside, who do they advocate paying for all of these court appointed attorneys for defendants AND witnesses? Not to mention the transcripts of the testimony.

George said...

@ 5:31, are YOU kidding? As United States citizens that are NOT yet convicted and PRESUMED innocent, why shouldn't they receive appointed attorneys and have the jurisdiction pay for it all? Maybe then they would be a bit more careful in issuing true bills.

This whole business of secrecy is a pile of dog crap anyway. What need is there for the secrecy in all of this?

Anonymous said...

@George, you are 100% right. Matt Bingham in Smith county this crook makes hillary look like a girl scout.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:31, TPPF happens to be made up of SMALL-government conservatives who prefer less taxes and more liberty. I understand there are also BIG-government conservatives like yourself who want to maximize state power. So I can see how that might be confusing for you.