People all across America have been angry about the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. In both cases, White police officers were not indicted for killing an unarmed African American man.
On Tuesday, Rep. Hank Johnson appeared on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin to discuss his proposed grand jury reform bill which will change the grand jury process and hold police more accountable for their actions. Johnson plans on reintroducing this legislation today in the new session of Congress.
Even though grand jury processes are handled on the state level and are considered a state right, Rep. Johnson’s federal legislation would have a major impact on how those proceedings are conducted. Johnson told Martin, “Law enforcement agencies around the country receive federal funds and to the extent that they do, the federal government has jurisdiction to regulate.
“We have the power of the purse strings,” Johnson said. “What my legislation would do would be to interpose a layer or accountability on these secret grand jury proceedings if there is a homicide by a police officer in the line of duty. My bill would require the appointment of a special prosecutor, that special prosecutor would be charged with conducting a public probable cause hearing to determine whether or not there was reasonable belief that that police officer should be bound over for criminal charges.”
Martin asked Rep. Johnson if states decided not to implement the grand jury reform measures under his proposed bill would federal dollars to be withheld.
Johnson replied, “Exactly.”
According to Rep. Johnson, state law would not have to be changed in order to implement the reform. Johnson said, “Each state would be charged with amending their processes to accommodate this new process. It doesn’t replace a state’s old process.”
Jonson explained there can be secret grand jury proceedings because many states require that grand juries remain secret but, “they would have to have a public probable cause hearing before bringing it to a secret grand jury process.”
Listen to Rep. Hank Johnson and “NewsOne Now” host Roland Martin discuss the congressman’s proposed bill to reform the grand jury process in the audio clip below.
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