It is settled that one, if not the main, concern of the grand jury system is the protection of the rights of those accused of committing an offense. As years pass by, however, the system has been put under scrutiny on the basis that it no longer plays the part that it was tasked to performed. In fact, it has been stated that the system has been doing just the opposite of what was expected of it. As pointed out by an article,”In a book published last week, The Grand Jury: An Institution on Trial, U. S.
Judge Marvin Frankel and Attorney Gary Naftalis conclude: ‘The Grand Jury has served too often to harass the unorthodox and the unpopular’” (“Reforming Grand Juries”). This clearly is contrary to the principles for which the grand jury system has been established. The abuses said to be perpetrated by the system relates to the procedures and processes that they resort it resorts to in the performance of its functions and duties. For instance, it has been said that the absence of lawyers assisting witnesses invited for questioning by the jury often leads to abusive and unbridled questioning by members of the jury.
True enough, a witness who is not equipped with enough knowledge as regards the parameters set by law when it comes to grand jury questioning may be pressured to give in to a kind of answer that the jury’s brand of questioning might suggest. It is believed that in this manner, there is a big probability that the truth as regards the matter investigated upon may come out distorted, hence, cannot be a proper basis for rendering a valid judgment.
If such be the situation, then it is difficult to state with accuracy if the grand jury system is still able to promote justice and fairness. Reforms to the system have been suggested in order to rectify the wrongs attendant in the jury’s performance of its duties. Proposed legislations have embodied changes and amendments pertaining to the procedures followed by the jury when it comes to questioning witnesses, and other matters incident to their functions. One such proposed law suggested for the jury to
1) Allow a witness to bring his attorney into the grand jury room. 2) Limit incarceration for refusal to answer to six months (theoretically, there is no limit now). 3) Completely immunize a witness from prosecution for any offense discussed during his appearance. (Under a 1970 law, federal attorneys can force a suspect to talk and then prosecute for admitted crimes if they can find independent proof elsewhere. ) (“Reforming Grand Juries”) It is opined that the suggested modifications would better the performance by the grand jury of its duties.
In addition to this, abuses will be prevented and individuals invited for questioning would be given an amount of assurance that their rights will not be acknowledged and accorded great respect. Reforms to the system should be viewed not as pure criticisms thrown at the grand jury system. In fact, the same should be considered as a form of continued support and belief in the effectiveness of this system in relation to the administration of justices.
True, statements have been made as regards exploitations perpetrated in the performance of the jury’s duties; however it must also be put to mind that the reforms suggested are also modes geared towards the betterment of the system. Reforms seek to ensure that the grand jury system is still committed to promoting justice and fairness when it comes to prosecuting offenses and those committing the same.
REFERENCE “Reforming Grand Juries”. <http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,945774,00. html> “Frequently Asked Questions”. American Bar Association. <http://www. abanet. org/media/faqjury. html>