Attorney Mark Nicholson
IndyStar: Attorney Mark Nicholson
The Indianapolis Star newspaper recently contacted me to ask my opinion regarding the use of a grand jury in the Dreasjon Reed case. I cannot criticize the verdict because I was not in the room to hear and see the evidence presented. I directed my criticism at the use of (or lack thereof) in cases not involving police officers or wealthy and powerful individuals.
A grand jury is a jury made up of a group of citizens empowered by law to conduct legal proceedings and investigate potential criminal conduct, and determine whether criminal charges should be brought. The grand jury may subpoena physical evidence or a person to testify. A grand jury is separate from the courts, which do not preside over it. By law, grand juries are conducted in secret.
The United States is one of the few countries that have a grand jury. Grand juries perform both accusatory and investigatory functions. The investigatory functions of grand juries include obtaining and reviewing documents and other evidence, and hearing sworn testimonies of witnesses who appear before it; the accusatory function determines whether there is probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a particular offense within the venue of a district court.
Below is an excerpt from the Indianapolis Star article
Criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Mark Nicholson questioned the use not because of the verdict reached in the Reed case but because the grand jury structure in general provides “favoritism” for police officers.
Black, Brown, and White
“Black, brown or poor whites, they really don’t get grand juries,” he said. “They get charged with a crime, and after they get charged with a crime they have to go to a public hearing to find out what the result is going to be.”
“But time and time again you see officers getting grand juries, and it’s done in secret. And then the prosecutor comes out and says, ‘This is what happened,'” Nicholson said.
He pointed to the recent case of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, in which a grand jury did not bring murder charges against the officers responsible for her shooting death.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron was later criticized by members of the grand jury
reviewing that case because they were only given the option to bring wanton endangerment charges against the officers. “It does depend on the way the prosecutor presents the case,” Nicholson said.