There is a venerable saying: “A prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Texas Governor Rick Perry is the ham sandwich of the week.
Whenever a political operative or politician trying to defend an obviously faulty criminal charge solemnly intones “oh yes, he was indicted by a grand jury,” that’s just another reason to check your pockets, because you’re being lied to, and it’s going to cost you in more ways than one.
There are two common ways to charge someone with a crime: a local prosecutor decides to file charges, or a local prosecutor presents evidence to a grand jury and lets them make the charging decision. For politically minded prosecutors, using a grand jury is a grand idea. They can say: “Hey, it wasn’t my choice; the grand jury did it! I just gave them the evidence.” It’s particularly good if a special prosecutor does the presentation. Then they can say: “Hey, it wasn’t even me that gave them the evidence! Don’t blame me! I’m all about justice!”
Why can a prosecutor get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich? Grand jurors are chosen from the local tax rolls. They’re Joe and Jane Average, not trained lawyers, and you can bet no prosecutor would want anyone that knows the law to be on a grand jury, and guess what? They get to choose the jurors.
Prosecutors choose every bit of evidence–or lack of evidence–grand juries see. No one appearing to testify before a grand jury is allowed counsel. There are no adversarial questions. The grand jury gets only one side of every situation: the side the prosecutors choose to give them. Their proceedings are secret. Continue reading