Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What happened to legislation requiring grand jury transcripts?

The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned on August 2, 2007 without passing much needed reform of the current grand jury system, insuring NC will remain in the legal dark ages. By not requiring a record of grand jury proceedings, prosecutors are free to follow disbarred DA Mike Nifong's bad example and deny defendants a probable cause hearing where a lack of evidence and fraudulent affidavits, as in the Duke Hoax case, could be revealed early in the process. Instead, cynical prosecutors may continue pretending that an easily manipulated grand jury has the tools and ability to conduct a true hearing of available evidence, both inculpatory & exculpatory.

In the Duke Lacrosse Case the grand jury only heard from Durham PD Officers Gottlieb & Himan when it indicted the now declared innocent lacrosse players. Were the jurors informed that former DA Nifong, Gottlieb, and Himan learned on April 10, a week before seeking indictments, that DNASI had found DNA from multiple unknown men, none of whom were at the party? Were they told that no lacrosse player's DNA was ever found in the false accuser's swabs? We doubt it, but we will never know what that grand jury was told as no transcripts are allowed. We do, however, have the words of one grand juror who said anonymousy:

"Knowing what I know now and all that's been broadcast on the news and in media, I think I would have definitely … made a different decision," he said to ABC News.

In the immediate fallout of this case, there was talk of grand jury reform and hope for change. In May, LieStoppers reported on several proposed changes to legislation.

“Senate Bill 1131 proposes to have all Grand Jury proceedings recorded and transcribed while also allowing Grand Jurors to report prosecutorial misconduct to federal law enforcement authorities after consulting with and gaining the permission of the presiding judge.All proceedings of the grand jury shall be recorded and transcribed. Records and transcriptions of grand jury proceedings are not public records under Chapter 132 of the General Statutes.”“[W]e strongly support the [proposal] to record Grand Jury proceedings – had this been the case for the Durham Hoax, there would be a record of the misrepresentations presented by DPD officers Himan and Gottlieb on behalf of Defendant Nifong…”

What happened to SB1131?

In late May, a senate subcommittee recommended a substitution for SB1131. The substitute….“AN ACT allowing a district court judge to perform marriage ceremonies” and in July Governor Easley signed this change to N.C.G.S. 51-1 into law.

Okay. That’s great... for a man and woman wishing to be married, but what about grand jury transcripts which could prevent future Nifonging of innocents?

On a more positive note, SB1130, titled “Open Discovery/AOC Changes,” passed and was signed into law. It is described as “AN ACT clarifying that defendants must have access to the complete files of all law enforcement, to make changes to the State Budget Act as it applies to the Judicial Branch, to add a new duty to the Director's powers and duties, to modify or repeal certain statutes related to drug treatment courts, to establish a pilot program in several counties for electronic court filings, to make clarifying changes for continuing training for magistrates; and to prohibit magistrates from the private practice of law.”

Of course, nowhere does it state that a police officer must keep notes or record interviews. So Sgt. Mark “No notes” Gottlieb can keep his Dry Erase Board and hope that Ben “With what?” Himan may occasionally photograph it for discovery. Miraculously recovered memories are still safe, which comes in handy when filling in large holes in cases.

LieStoppers is deeply disappointed that the North Carolina General Assembly, despite being nationally humiliated for having an easily manipulated grand jury system which wrongly indicted three totally innocent men for a crime which never happened, has chosen to do nothing. NC remains a state where another Nifong can easily “indict a ham sandwich,” as it has not addressed the system failures which allowed the wrongful indictments in the Duke Lacrosse Hoax.


Anonymous said...

Where is the North Carolina Press?


Anonymous said...

If people who vote would just change who is in the legislature, we may actually get some legislation for fairness done. is a priviledge to run and be elected to a legislative office, it is not a job one keeps forever. It cant get any worse if all new people were elected and running the our state governement. it may actually get better. LETS TRY IT.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the system refuses to reform itself. The whole affair from start to finish makes one cry.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the update.

bravefacari said...

VERY disappointing. Was there even a debate on the subject on the floor and if so what was the concern?

Anonymous said...


We contacted the sponsor of the bill but did not receive a reply.


Anonymous said...

They need MORE PUBLIC HUMILIATION to effect change. They'll change with a higher level of public keep it up Liestoppers, DIW, and others. I'm with you!

Anonymous said...

When my name comes up for jury duty, you can bet I'll make it clear to the judge that I will never vote to convict any person in North Carolina as long as the laws permit prosecutors and police to manipulate the system. I used to be proud to call myself a North Carolinian, but now I see I live in North Korealina.

Anonymous said...

12:42 In my experience, judges are not usually interested in speeches. But giving it a try can only hurt you.

Anonymous said...

Hurt me? How? This is still a free country, and if I tell a judge that my lack of faith in the justice system will not permit me to believe anything told to me by police or prosecutors, under what law can I be "hurt?"

Anonymous said...

They might put you in jail for contempt of court.

Anonymous said...

Contempt of court only occurs when a court is in session. An interview of potential jurors is, by definition, PRE-trial. Any potential juror is free to state an ethical position without fear of reprisal. Haven't you read the US Constituion?

Anonymous said...

7.15 and 7.22: Check out "Voir Dire" in any legal dictionary. A prospective juror may express a bias against certain aspects of the judicial system and be excused without let or hindrance. In the United States, we normally don't punish people for having opinions (although that seems to be changing).

truthinjusticeRCNC said...

Every one in NC needs to commit themselves to attending their County Council Meetings every month. An hour or so every month, to monitor what our Leaders are actually doing, is not much of a sacrifice,to make sure that everything is being handled to the best interest of ALL citizens. People think that someone is monitoring our Leaders when in actuality there are rarely more than two or three members of the general public in attendance at the regular meetings and only a few more when important issues are being handled.
I have been very surprised at what discrepancies I have discovered as to what the Public is made aware of and what is actually happening. All of the tax payers money is accounted for in the spending decisions that our Board members make. The accounting of all intake monies from all departments of our Government bodies are verbalized at these meetings. If you want to know where our money is going, pay attention at these meetings and then go spend a day off from work at the Court House sitting in on Court sessions. You may just discover major differences in the figures that are being taken in and what is being reported as taken in, by the time it gets entered into the accounting at the Board Meetings. If all the money was really going where it was suppose to be, there would be no need for all the grants that our County level Officials apply to the Federal Government. It is not enough that they have spent(somewhere?) all of our County and State Tax Dollars, they have to get as much of our Federal Dollars as they can too. If Citizens would spend just a fraction of the time they spend complaining, paying attention to what was going on with their own eyes, There would be no more financial woes; Except in the padded pockets of our unsupervised, Administrative Officials.