Friday, December 9, 2011

Catholic Priests ,College Coaches ,and Pennsylvania Grand Jury Reports

The alleged sexual abuse by former Penn State Coach Sandusky has cemented a view I have had for a while. I don't like how Pennsylvania does Grand Jury indictments.

In most States Grand Jury indictments are much more bare bones. In Louisiana for instance the Judge is not even present for Grand Jury deliberations. It's all very much more confidential. In Pennsylvania they are done in narrative form with much more information included. This is problematic I think. I am starting to wonder at the difficulty of how to deal with the fact that in many cases the possible jury pool of citizens is not having a huge bias.

It should be recalled that the old saying that a D.A. can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich has some truth. I am all for Grand Juries but I get their limitations. There is often no defense attorney present to do cross examination. Further the Grand Jury indicts on a much lower standard of proof than one has to have to get a guilty verdict at trial. Adding to that is the fact that the normal rules of evidence don't apply in testimony in front of a Grand Jury.

The problem I see is this all seem very prejudicial. In fact people that are not charged with a crime but associated with the alleged crime are having their reputations battered in the public square. They don't have a very good legal outlet to combat that. Which again is why the presentment type of Grand Jury indictment that is done in Pennsylvania is no longer the norm.

This is a big disaster when combined with the world of social media. I find it distressing that many non legal reporters seem to be taking every thing uttered by an Grand Jury as Gospel. For whatever reason when something is written down it seems to take on more credibility and has more power. Internet sports "reporters" such as Sports By Brooks to name just one have now it seemed move past the alleged stage and just take the Grand Jury statements as fact. That might not be the intention but the tone of the tweets and articles give that impression.

Of course in Pennsylvania we have had to interact with these Grand Jury reports on a national stage as to the Catholic Church. As some have pointed out there are real problems there too. See
Unfair in Philadelphia? A Closer Look at the Grand Jury Report

Now I am not taking a position on guilt or innocence in either the Catholic Church or Sandusky related matters. But that last link shows at the very least how perhaps as to Grand Juries, that Pennsylvania might should consider joining most of her sister states on how they are conducted. In a age of the Internet lynch mob it might be the right thing to do.

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