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Oregon Prosecutors Call the Shots During Grand Jury Hearings

Oregon defense attorneys, alarmed that several county prosecutors were conducting "off-the- record" grand jury briefings by experts--including police detectives-- filed motions for dismissal of 300 criminal cases pending in Josephine County's Circuit Court. The briefings were being held largely in drug cases, but in cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence as well.

On May 30, Benton County Judge Robert Gardner ruled the "orientations" improper, but ordered only twelve cases of child sexual abuse to be re-heard. The public defenders will appeal to the State Supreme Court (Oregonian, May 31).

The grand jury system is problematic to begin with. The process is all about the prosecution: No defense attorneys allowed, no testimony by the suspect. Only the prosecution gets to present its case. The proceeding is unrecorded and closed to the public.

Criminal defense attorneys claim that the prosecutors' "orientations" amount to nothing less than indoctrination which prejudice the jury. The "experts," including narcotics detectives and family therapists, are never sworn in during their presentations, and sometimes return before the same jury as witnesses.

A more typical example of grand jury orientation is practiced in Washington County by District Attorney Bob Hermann, who lets potential jurors know: "when jurors meet and how often, what is expected of jurors, the laws governing grand juries, courthouse procedure and what kinds of cases jurors may hear" (Oregonian, February 19).

Defense attorneys have taken their protest one step further by introducing "grand jury legislation that would require recordings of all proceedings; inform grand jurors of their rights to call witnesses, see evidence and indict on lesser charges; notify subpoenaed witnesses who are investigatory targets; and prohibit prosecutors from introducing unconstitutionally obtained evidence." Gardner agreed in his finding that orientations should be recorded, requesting standards be adopted for grand juries, and outlawing "special orientations."

In Oregon, the grand jury consists of seven citizens who decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to bring a person alleged to have committed a crime to trial.

The grand jury systems in Clatsop, Marion, Douglas, Deschutes and Jackson Counties include "orientations" similar to Josephine County's (Oregonian, March 24).

  People's Police Report

August, 2001
Also in PPR #24

Police Shoot José Mejía In   Psychiatric Hospital
Police Go On Shooting Spree in   Early July
Review Board Overhauled
Profiling Proven by Statistics
May Day: Police Back Off
PIIAC's Last Stand: Old Review   Board Ends
Chief Kroeker, Repression & More
SERT Team Disbanded
Grand Jury Concerns
  • JTTF Own Worst Enemy
  • FBI Raids Activis Home
  • Dignity Village on Notice
  • Overtime Scandal Down 86%
  • Shooter Cop Gets Stress Pay
  • Chief Moose Supports Prostitution
  • Clackamas Sheriff Off Hook: Discrimination
  • Bend Cop Off Hook: Shooting
Quick Flashes
  • Sergeants Convicted in Beatings
  • Police Raid Three Homes
  • 3 Portland Beatings
  • PPB vs. Counterculture
  • County to Charge Inmates
  • Supreme Court: Thermal Image Unlawful
Washington County Sheriffs
  • Deputies Drop Knives
  • Tactical Team 'n' TNT
  • Pregnant Woman Escapes
  • Beavert on Cops Play Robbers
Letters to the PPR
Rapping Back #24

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #24 Table of Contents
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