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GRAND JURIES ARE NOT ALL THE SAME
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 21, 2011) — The Post & Email recently contacted District Attorney Jeff Langley, who was elected on November 2, 2010 and took office on January 3, 2011. He serves the four counties comprising the Northeastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia: White, Lumpkin, Towns and Union, which together are known as the Enotah Judicial Circuit.
Langley graduated in 1983 from the University of Georgia magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and the University of Georgia School of Law on an academic scholarship, graduating in 1986.
Before his public service, Mr. Langley worked for ten years in the private practice of civil and criminal law.
The Post & Email asked DA Langley if he would answer some questions regarding grand juries in his district, and he was very gracious to do so during a brief but unscheduled interview.
Langley served as Assistant DA in the Enotah Judicial District for 12 years, and as Chief Assistant DA for nine years. When he ran for DA last fall, he had one opponent from the same political party with no Democrat contenders.
We asked him questions regarding his role with the grand juries. He stated that in Georgia, the grand jury foreman is chosen by the jurors, not by the judge, as is permitted by law in Tennessee. A jury pool is selected from driver’s license lists and other public data by a Board of Jury Commissioners, the members of which place the names into the pool. Twenty-three jurors are then selected randomly.
Langley said that each county in Georgia has a grand jury. As District Attorney, he reported that presents criminal evidence to the grand jury and then leaves the room while the members deliberate. He said he is never present during their discussions unless his assistance is specifically requested. In addition to examining possible criminal activity, Langley stated that the grand jury has civil duties which include oversight of government officials.
We asked Mr. Langley if the grand jury in his district has ever brought forward evidence of wrongdoing on the part of a county employee, and he answered “Yes; it has happened occasionally.” However, when we asked about widespread corruption, he said, “We don’t have that here.”
The Georgia grand jury handbook begins, “Welcome. You have just assumed a most important role in the administration of justice in your community. Service on the grand jury is one way in which you, as a responsible citizen, can directly participate in government.” Langley mentioned that Georgia statute requires that grand jurors must be “intelligent and morally upright citizens.” The handbook gives some history about the grand jury, and on page 8, the Fifth Amendment’s mention of grand juries is quoted. On page 9, the complete requirements are listed, including that a grand jury member must be a U.S. citizen.
The Post & Email has reported extensively on grand juries in nearby Monroe County, TN, where jurors on both grand and trial juries do not appear to have been chosen randomly and the foreman served for 20 consecutive years despite the TCA 22-2-314, which states:
A juror who has completed a jury service term shall not be summoned to serve another jury service term in any court of this state for a period of twenty-four (24) months following the last day of such service; however, the county legislative body of any county may, by majority vote, extend the twenty-four-month period.
The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 6(g)1, states that “The judge of the court authorized by law to charge–and receive the report of–the grand jury shall appoint the grand jury foreperson.” It does not say that the same foreperson can be used in consecutive, unlimited terms.
Rule 6(g)2 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure states that “The foreperson shall possess all the qualifications of a juror.” If a juror by law cannot serve again within a 24-month period, why are grand jury foremen serving numerous consecutive terms in various counties, and perhaps even throughout, the state of Tennessee?
Rule 6(g)3 states, “The foreperson shall hold office and exercise powers for a term of two (2) years from appointment. In the discretion of the presiding judge, the foreperson may be removed, relieved, or excused from office for good cause at any time.”
A report from last September states that the grand jury foreman in Greene County had been serving for 16 consecutive years, and an independent organization concluded (page 11) that “the Monroe County grand jury has been tainted and corrupted by the continuous service of Mr. Gary Pettway as Grand Jury Foreman for the past 27 years.”
Editor’s Note: It was later found that court records indicated that Mr. Pettway had served continuously as foreman for 20 years, not 27, but Mr. Pettway had himself stated that the duration of his service was 27 years.
When asked if he enjoyed his position as District Attorney of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, Mr. Langley replied, “Yes, I love the job. It’s very fulfilling.”