13 August 2015

District Attorneys in California Have One Fewer Way to Let Killer Cops Walk

California has just passed a law that forbids the use of secret grand juries to investigate police involved shootings:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday making California the first state in the nation to ban the use of grand juries to decide whether police officers should face criminal charges when they kill people in the line of duty.

The ban, which will go into effect next year, comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, made controversial decisions in secret hearings last year not to bring charges against officers who killed unarmed black men, sparking protests across the country. Calls for transparency also have come amid national concerns about disparate treatment of blacks and other racial minorities when encounters with cops turned deadly in Baltimore, Cincinnati and South Carolina.

"What the governor's decision says is, he gets it -- the people don't want secrecy when it comes to officer-involved shootings," said retired judge and former San Jose independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell, the first African-American appointed as a judge in Northern California and a key supporter of the bill. "We're not trying to get more officers indicted. We're saying, 'Whatever you decide, do it in the open.'"
What we have seen recently is that there are a lot of DA's out there who use grand juries to justify not pursuing bad cops.

Now those DA's will no longer have plausible deniability.

Now it will go to a preliminary hearing, with a judge, and where defense counsel can contest the facts and the law, in public.

It's not creating a state level prosecutor who's only job is investigating and prosecuting police shootings, but it's better than the status quo.


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