Caleb Pilgrim: Let's Abolish the Grand Jury System

By Pilgrim, Caleb | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), December 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Caleb Pilgrim: Let's Abolish the Grand Jury System


Pilgrim, Caleb, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


It is not sheer serendipity that former President George W. Bush recently deemed the decision by the Staten Island grand jury not to indict the white police officers responsible for the chokehold and death of Eric Garner, as "hard to understand."

Nor is it fortuitous that former Secretary of State, and former first lady Hillary Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, should have considered the United States justice system "out of balance," and backed federal probes into both the Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island cases. The acts are neither serendipitous nor fortuitous because what is clear is the fact that the U.S. grand jury system, under the guidance of experienced prosecutors, has miserably failed to ensure that the constitutional and civil rights of victim minorities are legally protected.

Several decades ago, while a graduate student in the UK, I attended a lecture by the late Lord Hailsham (UK lord chancellor). I was initially taken aback, when Hailsham, a man of extraordinary political, judicial, legal, parliamentary and even military experience, described the American legal system as "that great museum of discarded English legal forms." ("Hamlyn Revisited: The British Legal System Today," p.38.).

Fair to say, Hailsham was critical of the civil jury system. Like Prime Minister Winston Churchill, he was born to an American mother. He was not, however, simply asserting a strident anti-American bias, and seeking to torpedo the typical claims of "American exceptionalism."

Rather, he was offering a typically robust analysis of 20th century UK and comparative legal development.

To illustrate Hailsham's point as to the U.S. being "that great museum of discarded English legal forms," the grand jury ceased to function in England in 1933, following enactment of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933. ("An Act to abolish grand juries and amend the law as to the presentment of indictments.")

Grand juries were subsequently abolished in their entirety in 1948, when the Criminal Justice Act 1948 ("An Act to abolish penal servitude, hard labour ... the sentence of whipping") repealed a savings clause in the 1933 UK legislation retaining grand juries for offenses relating to officials abroad.

Today, the United States remains the only country that still retains the grand jury system. No other western country, with a common law tradition, e.g. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, retains the grand jury.

Recent grand jury nullifications in Eric Garner's case in Staten Island, New York, and in Michael Brown's case in Ferguson must therefore concern any thoughtful, civic minded individual. Relatively widespread, popular dissatisfaction among blacks, whites, minorities, males, females, young, old, students, activists, and across the political spectrum resulting and culminating in occasional rioting and looting -- following the grand jury failure to indict police officer(s), who either intentionally or recklessly kill unarmed civilians -- also compels us to consider the usefulness of the current grand jury system(s), and ask whether the time for its abolition has not come.

The refusal of the respective grand juries to return any sort of indictment may well be, in itself, a most astounding indictment of the system.

Time was when we were told that "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich." Perhaps, yes. But not so when the victim is black. Black lives clearly do not matter in the context of the grand jury. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Caleb Pilgrim: Let's Abolish the Grand Jury System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.