New York Chief Judge to introduce bill to change state's grand jury proceedings

New York Chief Judge to introduce bill to change state's grand jury proceedings

On Tuesday, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals proposed to give courts an unprecedented authority over grand jury proceedings involving police.

In his annual address in Albany, Lippman said the public's trust in the justice system has been shaken by the secretive proceedings that did not lead to indictments.

One of such cases includes a NYPD officer who killed unarmed black man, Eric Garner. However, grand juries declined to indict police officers, resulting in protests by people. The other case included an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, who shot and killed an unarmed black teen last year.

Lippman said, “Of immediate concern are the perceptions of some that prosecutors’ offices, which work so closely with the police as they must and should, are unable to objectively present to the grand jury cases arising out of police-civilian encounters”.

Lippman said that a bill to the state legislature would soon be submitted. The bill would require judges to preside cases involving allegations of homicide or felony assault against police officers over grand jury proceedings.

The reforms announced Tuesday also include the release of records of closed-door proceedings when nobody is charged. Lippman's proposal gives judges the ability to question witnesses and block evidence they find inadmissible.

This would be a check on the outsized role of prosecutors in grand jury proceedings and give public greater confidence in the process.

However, the proposal could be criticized by the state's district attorneys. The proposal would also create a belief that grand jury records would be released in cases of ‘significant public interest’ even if no charges are brought up.

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