May 1, 2015
Columbus, OH—This week, in a hand delivered letter to Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and other Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as the Constitutional Modernization Committee, State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) urged the Ohio Supreme Court to abolish the grand jury process in Ohio.
“Many constituents in my district and across the state have expressed concerns with the lack of transparency in the grand jury process,” said Senator Williams. “I share their sentiment and strongly encourage the Ohio Supreme Court to consider utilizing the preliminary hearing process as the primary measure to indict the accused.”
Senator Williams cites recent cases in Beavercreek, Ferguson, and Staten Island where grand juries declined to indict police for the killings of John Crawford, Michael Brown and Eric Garner as evidence of how insufficient the grand jury system has become. She also strongly encourages the newly established Ohio Modernization Commission to review the grand jury process to determine its effectiveness, and added if we continue to use the grand jury process, to consider making recommendations on how the procedure can be made less secretive and more transparent.
Senator Williams also made this a recommendation to the Governor Kasich’s Task Force on Community-Police Relations, where she served as a member. The Ohio Constitution grants control over many court processes, including the role and function of grand juries, to the Ohio Supreme Court, preventing grand jury elimination by legislative enactment.
Senator Williams has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to consider the following:
Abolish the grand jury process and replace it with a preliminary hearing process.
If the abolishment of the grand jury process is not feasible, require all grand jury testimony to be subject to public record.
Require the court stenographer to be appointed by the presiding judge and not the prosecutor’s office.
“Transparency is the main objective to this reform,” said Williams. “I want a judiciary system that is fair for all Ohioans. It is important to Ohioans that we have an indictment process that can be conducted in open court where the victims, defendants, public, and media can all be present to hear the evidence as presented.”
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