By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
“Grand Juries Subvert The Criminal Justice System”
Terrific post at Techdirt by Tim Cushing on how grand juries turn “the merely accused into de facto criminals, indistinguishable from the other prisoners except for the fact that many of their new ‘peers’ have likely had a chance to avail themselves of their constitutional rights.”
He notes that a North Carolina grand jury cranked out 276 indictments in four hours — roughly one every 52 seconds. Cushing continues:
Some commenters pointed out (correctly) that grand juries don’t actually declare anyone “guilty.” They just determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
But the system is still broken. Grand juries may not hand out guilty verdicts, but they do have the power to imprison people for an indefinite amount of time simply by indicting them. This is exactly what happened to Justin Carter, the teen charged with making terroristic threats after someone reported statements he made while trash-talking with some fellow League of Legends players. The Dallas Observer has been tracking this case (via Reason), and the phrases below are what have been termed “terroristic threats.”
One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter’s retort was: “I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN [sic].”
Carter followed with “AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN.”
Carter was indicted by a grand jury based solely on these statements. (Police failed to uncover anything else damning after searching Carter’s residence.) According to Carter’s lawyer, the prosecutor presented the “threats” using a couple of screenshots wholly removed from context to the grand jury, which found these met the requirements of the “terroristic threat” charge.
But Flanary says that Bates presented a truncated version of the comments to grand jurors. They did not see “I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma” before “shoot up a kindergarten.” If this sounds like the nitpicking of a defense attorney, that’s precisely the point.
“When you’re dealing with speech,” Flanary says, “… it is absolutely, 100 percent important that the words that you are charging people with are actually the words that they said and not some misrepresentation. And that’s what … this prosecutor did, is misrepresent to the grand jury what he said.”
So, the grand jury indicted Carter and the prosecutor asked for $500,000 bail. Carter was jailed in February of 2013 (the first …read more