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Thread: Return of debtor's prison

  1. #19

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    Quinn, which state? Most cops in CA will never see a GJ in their career. The DA carefully picks the cases to take before the GJ. In those select cases of course the investigating officers (usually the detectives) will testify. The GJ system in CA seems to be quite different than your state.

  2. #20

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    I'm in Ohio. I never really understood the process until I was in it. The way it works is that a person is arrested for something that is considered a felony. The case goes to a local court (misdemeanor court) and if the judge feels that it is out of his league, it is bound over to the grand jury. Then, as grand jurors, we hear the facts of the case only from the prosecutors side. That's where the police come in. They would swear in and then give testimony on what happened that led to the arrest and what the person was arrested for. Our job as the grand jurors was to decide whether or not there was enough evidence to have a trial. We didn't decide guilt or innocence just whether or not there was enough evidence for a trial.

    It is very tricky not to vote to throw something out because you think the guy is innocent even if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. There was a particular case that I had to vote to send it to trial, even though I was very passionate about the fact that the person was not only innocent but she was actually the victim. There were other cases that we threw out even though we thought the guy was guilty, there just wasn't enough evidence to go to trial. Either way, the police were at over 90% of the hearings. Usually it was the arresting officer but a couple of times it was someone in place of the officer because he was on vacation.

  3. #21

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    Quinn, interesting. As we suspected the GJ system in CA is completely different. I want to read your experience again. I'll reply later tonight. Thanks.

  4. #22

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    Here's a crash course on California criminal procedure and where a Grand Jury might fit in.

    Except for infractions (traffic tickets) and certain misdemeanors which are charged by merely the citation, the DA decides whether or not to file formal charges against a suspect. The DA decides exactly which offense is to be charged. In some cases a city attorney may do so.

    The prosecutor makes these decisions after reviewing a police officer's reports and determines if the state using admissible evidence can prove to a jury that the suspect is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

    Once arrested a suspect must be arraigned within 48 hours. An arrainment is merely to advise the suspect of the charges (criminal complaint) and their right to an attorney; and to determine the suspect's plea; and to either set bail or to be given an O.R. release.

    After arraignment the next step is a preliminary hearing (prelim). The purpose is to screen out weak cases. The magistrate hears the high level evidence and determines if sufficient cause exists to hold the suspect to answer the charges and bind him/her over for trial. By your description Quinn, this seems where Ohio GJ's get involved.

    Occasionally the prosecutor will decide to initiate a felony prosecution by way of a Grand Jury. In such instances there are no justice or municipal court proceedings at all. The GJ is a group of citizens selected at random who sit for a year ( after a superior court judge confirms their statutory qualifications ). In criminal cases the GJ's role is essentially the same as a preliminary hearing: to decide if enough evidence exists to hold a suspect to answer a criminal charge. A major advantage to a GJ is that neither the suspect or his/her attorney is present, unlike a preliminary hearing.

    After a prelim come the trial. Usually at the same time of the prelim and motions to suppress evidence are heard. This is so any evidence illegally obtained is excluded from the prelim which a judge cannot consider in determining if the dependent should be bound over.

    So essentially there are two paths to trial which a California DA may chose. Arrest, arraignment, prelim and then trial....or Grand Jury indictment then trial.

    This is probably too long to read but it's here if you're interested.

  5. #23

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    It wasn't too long to read. In fact, I read it a couple of times. I'm not sure where Ohio's GJ compares to CA. I may be missing a procedure in the Ohio way of doing things. Not sure if I am or not, but I am positive that I am no scholar about it.

    When things were explained to us on the first day, they told us that our job was to determine whether or not these cases had enough evidence to go to a trial. They also told us that all of these cases came straight from misdemeanor court and we were able to send some back to misdemeanor court. There were a few cases where the person was obviously guilty but we didn't believe it was felonious, so we sent it back to misdemeanor court. We were also allowed to ask questions of the officers or witnesses while they were giving their testimony. But, like I said, we weren't there to determine guilt or innocence, just whether or not it should go to trial.

    I will say this. It is very hard to shock me. I am usually a person who just doesn't get surprised by human behavior. I'm not trying to get Biblical, but I do read the Bible and I am a Believer, so I've read about the most heinous things humans can do to each other. I've learned to shrug it off. Until the day we had a child pornography case and had to watch the videos. We were all ready to send it to trial after about 30 seconds of the first video. But we had to watch them all to make sure that it was a solid case and couldn't be thrown out on a technicality because this was a couple the prosecutors have seen walk on other cases. I was disturbed for weeks.

  6. #24

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    What you said makes a little sense to me. In California we have judicial/municipal courts and superior courts. All misdemeanor trials are held in judicial/muni court and all felony trials are held in superior court. Years ago all prelims, whether misd or felony, we're initially held in judicial/muni court. A misd suspect bound for trial would stay in judicial/muni court, while any felony suspect bound over would be transferred to superior court.

    It sounds like the Ohio GJ procedure is like the prelim process in CA. (My guess) is that an Ohio suspect goes before a GJ to determine if sufficient evidence exists to hold the defendant over for trial whether it be misd or felony. Whereas in CA a judicial/muni court hearing once decided this.

    Today, to streamline the process a defendant charged with a felony goes directly to superior court for the prelim. The thought process is that the same judge will sit on the prelim and trial so they will be familiar with the case. As a side note, to further streamline things hearsay evidence is permitted in a prelim. This means I could testify at a prelim for all witness in the case. This eliminates the DA from having to coordinate and call every witness to the stand and speeds up the process considerably. I like this.

    In any case, it's an honor to be selected as a Grand Jury member...some may not think so...but I admire people like you. I'd like to sit on a regualr jury. As a cop I had an exemption from jury duty and exercised it three or four times. I have no exemption now that I'm retired but I've been excused, not surprisingly by the defense, the only time I've been called. I think I'd make a pretty juror but will probably never see a criminal case, and I hate civil cases with a passion.

  7. #25

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    I loved jury duty. I have been selected for petit jury once, but the prosecuting attorney let me go. I am assuming it was because it was a union case and I had been in a union before. That was something I had to disclose. Those are the only two times I've been chosen and it makes me wonder why I was chosen for two so close together. I assume it was because I volunteered to work the polls during the 08 elections. Both jury duties came within months of doing that. I would love to do it again whether it be grand jury or petit, I love that stuff.

  8. #26

    Default Re: Return of debtor's prison

    Interesting thread guys.
    DSCH: a Soviet artist's reply to unjust criticism.

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