July 26, 2013
From April to the end of June I was foreman of the county grand jury. Even with what I learned about crime from my work both as a psychotherapist and an auxiliary policy officer, this was an amazing eye-openning experience. I heard testimony from the police, witnesses and victims in just about every major crime you read about in The Enterprise or saw reported on the local news.
This experience gave me a rare view of a culture where crime and violence is taken for granted.
This was a period when Brockton had a spike in murders and other violent crimes.
A grand jury decides whether indictments are warranted. It has 23 members selected from the normal jury pool. It meets one day a week for three months. All evidence, from crime scene photos to hospital records, are available for review. Unlike jurors in a jury trail, grand jurors able to ask questions of those who testify before it. Jurors are even able to subpoena evidence.
Sometimes it takes weeks for a grand jury to decide on an indictment. This is because there may be many witnesses and/or because all the forensic evidence isn't in.
Once the grand jury hears all the evidence they deliberate in private and vote either for an indictment or what is called a "no bill". In the later case the charges are dropped.
Every Plymouth County felony which the district attorney's office wants to take to trial must be first indicted by the grand jury.
Our grand jury meets in the basement of the Plymouth County Superior Court House on Belmont Street.
During a break I sat in on double murder and attempted murder trial of Keith Luke. He is the self-decribed white supremacist you all saw photos of.
I happened to be in a Brockton Enterprise photo of the surviving victim's family which was on the paper's front page:
The United States is the only country that still uses grand juries. They are an important part of our legal system.