February 11, 2016
COLUMBUS— Yesterday, State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 4 that will amend Section 10 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. This legislation will eliminate the grand jury process from the Constitution and will allow for the process to be reformed and reviewed by the Ohio legislature.
“In the wake of high profile grand jury cases, it has become obvious that the system is not only broken, but is harmful to how we administer justice,” remarked Senator Williams. “A significant number of constituent groups have expressed their discontent with our current grand jury process.”
There are currently 23 states that do not use the grand jury process as the sole indicting force, and in most states the grand jury is not given express powers in the state’s constitution. Instead, these states use either a preliminary hearing or a bill of information to indict. This legislation does not remove the option for the prosecutor to use a grand jury in cases where there is a need for secrecy; rather it gives prosecutors greater option to bring about charges, in certain felony cases, in a more transparent manner.
While the secrecy of the grand jury may seem fair and reliable to some, others believe that the system is imbalanced, lacks transparency and is skewed in many cases toward the outcome desired by the prosecuting attorney. It remains impossible for citizens to know if matters are being handled properly. This problem is highlighted by the exceptionally high rate of indictments, contrasted with universal refusal to indict law enforcement.
“The time has come to address the evident problems with the secret grand jury,” said Sen. Williams. “This resolution will give the General Assembly more flexibility to determine reforms to the indictment process. The cost of reform cannot trump doing what is justice in the state of Ohio.”
Sen. Williams continued, “I applaud the creation of the Supreme Court’s Task Force to study the grand jury. However, I believe that removing the grand jury from the constitution is the only solution that will allow for comprehensive reform to the process. The grand jury no longer protects the citizen from prosecutorial overreach; instead, it shields prosecutors from accountability and transparency, especially in cases when the suspect is law enforcement.”
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