RESULTS AS OF February 22, 2016
Survey will remain open. Results may be tallied again at a later date.
GA HB 941
House Bill 941: A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 12 of Title 15, Chapter 7 of Title 17, and Chapter 11 of Title 45 of the O.C.G.A., relating to juries, pretrial proceedings, and miscellaneous offenses concerning public officers and employees, respectively, so as to provide for procedure for review of incidents involving a peace officer’s use of deadly force that results in death or serious bodily injury; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
Rep. Golick of the 40th, Atwood of the 179th, Pak of the 108th, Abrams of the 89th, are proposing changes to the treatment of law officers as regards the function of the grand jury in the State. Georgia, alone among the states, allows a peace officer to sit in on the grand jury proceedings where he may be accused and to make a statement to the grand jury that may not be challenged. According to Jim Galloway (AJC), “Golick said there was some talk of barring officers from grand jury probes – as all other targets of investigation are. “We utterly reject that. Because what that says is that police officers are basically like everybody else,” Golick said. “The fact of the matter is, police officers are not like everybody else. They’re agents of the state. They do have a special role in our society.”
This reasoning is not shared by all attorneys in the State, as is witnessed by the testimony of Catherine Bernard, an Atlanta attorney, in her testimony before the House Judiciary Non Civil Committee discussing the intent of HB 941 on February 12 of this year. From her testimony regarding the more than 800 year history of grand jury in western society, “..what you are seeking to do with this bill, HB 941, what you are doing is creating a two-tier criminal system where individuals who are employed by the government in certain capacities, capacities that we respect, that face lots of risks, certainly, but they are being given additional constitutional rights and protection in criminal proceedings..”
Ms. Bernard is not alone among the legal minds in Georgia holding such strong views regarding the sanctity of citizen grand jury. In an email to legislators, including the author of HB 941, Paul Nally opines, “Obviously, the continued effort of our legislators is to throttle the free and unrestricted use of our Liberties is exemplified by the fact that throughout the verbiage of this HB, the term “district attorney” is used. This, instead of the generic “prosecutor”, is an unabashed attempt to make a reader of the law, a reader of the rules of practice and procedure, believe that ONLY an elected district attorney, or one appointed by the Attorney General, has the sole authority of law to present a case of police use of excessive or deadly force to the Grand Jury. Further, that such presentation be made within one year. That is found in the proposed language of 15-12-71(B) in Section 1.
That one paragraph turns this proposed legislation into an instrument of a legislative plunder of the rights and power of a Grand Jury and a citizen’s First Amendment Rights.”