Archive for the ‘National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Category

Evaluating grand jury reform in two states: The case for reform

November 12, 2011 Comments off

Evaluating grand jury reform in two states: The case for reform (PDF)
Source: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

The grand jury system has long been the subject of debate and proposals for reform. While the federal system has largely resisted any change, a number of states have not only implemented various reforms but also have extensive experience with them. Their experience is instructive in understanding how these measures would fare if adopted into the federal grand jury system.

NACDL selected two states for consideration: Colorado and New York. Both states have a constitutional right to a grand jury and have adopted several prominent reforms similar to those recommended by NACDL. In addition, the two states differ in their geography, size and legal culture, thus permitting comparisons of the experiences of grand jury reform in varying locales. Grand juries in both states see many of the same kinds of felony cases as those brought in federal court, including white collar fraud, gang cases and cases with strong political or public interest.

Researchers surveyed nearly 200 defense lawyers and interviewed upwards of 50 prosecutors, defense lawyers and retired judges. Prosecutors constituted no fewer than one-third of the interviewees in each state.

Four key reforms were addressed in the research, as both states had experience with each: (1) defense representation in the grand jury room, (2) production of witness transcripts for the defense, (3) advance notice for witnesses to appear, and (4) the presentation of exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.

The results strongly support the implementation of the four reforms at issue, finding many benefits and few drawbacks when states pursue these measures. The responses were uniform between the two states and across roles in the criminal justice system, whether prosecutors, defense lawyers or judges.


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