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“THE GRAND JURY IS WHAT MAKES US A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 24, 2014) — A grand jury in St. Louis County, MO has issued a “No True Bill” in the case of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson, who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.
The Founding Fathers included the grand jury in the Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights to ensure that citizens did not become victims of overzealous government prosecutors.
The Fifth Amendment states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Having been empaneled by Missouri law for a four-month term, a judge extended it from September to January as the grand jurors scrutinized evidence and heard testimony regarding Brown’s death.
The New York Times reported that the grand jury “brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson…,” but it is not the function of the grand jury to “bring charges.” The grand jury either finds that enough evidence exists to justify probable cause that a crime has been committed, in which case a “True Bill” of indictment is issued, or a “No True Bill” is issued if the members do not find enough evidence to support probable cause.
The names of witnesses testifying to the grand jury are not made public.
Today, at least three states no longer use grand juries: Connecticut, Michigan and Washington. Rather, charges are issued through the “information” method by which a prosecutor is provided evidence from law enforcement entities which might have gathered it from eyewitnesses or their own investigations.
CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who is currently serving a three-year prison term for bringing evidence of judicial corruption to the McMinn County, TN grand jury in March, has said, “The grand jury is what makes us a constitutional republic.”
In Tennessee, the courts are corrupt to the point where grand juries and trial juries are controlled by the judges. Indictments have been issued with no evidence, and because their deliberations are secret, grand jury decisions are not reviewed.
In Fitzpatrick’s case, it might appear that prosecutors, judges, grand jurors and the former grand jury foreman worked together to produce indictments when no crime was perpetrated, as no specifics as to dates, times or acts was ever produced by the prosecution.
On March 18, Fitzpatrick was charged with four crimes while reading a book outside of the grand jury room awaiting a disposition on his submission. At a pre-trial hearing on June 16, his attorney, Van Irion, argued that at least one of the grand jurors had been compromised by prejudicial statements made in January by then-grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood dismissed the argument.
Tennessee state law allows any citizen who believes he has evidence of a crime to approach his county grand jury to request an appearance.
Fitzpatrick was convicted of two felonies on June 24 without a police report or criminal complaint having been filed and the Bill of Particulars ultimately issued by the prosecution contained no such details.
Last February, as Fitzpatrick was attempting to garner the attention of the Athens Police Department and the McMinn County grand jury in regard to systemic judicial corruption in the county, legal and constitutional attorney and scholar Dr. Roger Roots told radio show hosts Chuck Smith and Lorri Anderson that the Tennessee court system was the most corrupt he had ever observed. Roots said he had followed the Fitzpatrick case and “never seen anything like it.”
On August 19, Fitzpatrick was sentenced to three years in state prison at a hearing in which Blackwood disparaged citizens’ requesting their “constitutional rights” and called Fitzpatrick “a moral coward.”
At an October hearing requesting a new trial and that judgment be “arrested,” a prosecutor claimed that “Fitzpatrick threatened to complain to the Board of Professional Responsibility, which could have been considered a threat to take away Cunningham’s law license,” which was used to support the claim that Fitzpatrick had committed aggravated perjury when he filed a request for an order of protection against Cunningham.
Fitzpatrick has maintained that everything he wrote in his petitions to the grand jury was true. Prior to going to the McMinn County grand jury for the last time in March, Fitzpatrick had met with a police detective for three hours in a meeting to which he had brought several boxes of documentation.
Fitzpatrick first exposed grand jury corruption in neighboring Monroe County in 2009, where he first discovered that grand jury foremen served for years and even decades at the pleasure of the criminal court judge. As a result of a submission made to the Monroe County grand jury in December 2009, Fitzpatrick inadvertently discovered that Gary Pettway had been serving as foreman for two continuous decades, later confirmed to be 28 years, without an appointing order or oath of office on file.
Tennessee grand jury foremen continue to be chosen by judges outside of the state law which governs the empaneling of jurors. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure explicitly state that the foreman is chosen from the empaneled jurors rather than by external selection by the judge through an unknown vetting process, as is done in Tennessee.