Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Grand Jury Gap

By Phillip Cosby:

If there is one thing we all as Americans are dismayed at it is the decreasing number of citizens engaged and participating in our government. Is it that they feel increasingly disconnected or powerless to effect change?

In the last four years in Kansas about nine grand juries have been petitioned by the people. Some would tell you the sky is falling and scream “abuse” even when those grand juries, after examining the evidence are delivering indictments. Is the unpredictable chaos of common people being within reach of a lever of power unsettling to elites?

Let’s compare apples with apples. In Kansas, grand juries are only impaneled by a petition of the people or by a majority of the judges in a particular judicial district (even more rare). In Missouri grand juries are “standing,” that is in many MO counties (like Clay & Jackson Counties) every six months a new grand jury is sworn in. Missouri prosecutors are constantly putting cases before those GJs to seek indictments. In Missouri in any given year there are hundreds of Grand Juries. It is commonplace, routine... almost boring. Nine grand juries in Kansas in four years vs. hundreds in a year in Missouri. “Abuse” is not the correct word in Kansas, it is novel, rare and unique.

Who in America would demand that such a pure form of access to the judicial branch of government be moved further out of reach of the people? The Kansas legislators believed that the common people should have access to power and have put within their reach one way to touch the system. Just because some special interests don’t like a subject of investigation, would you deny the people that right of access to power or leave all power in the hands of elites. Sometimes you just got to trust common people to move when elected officials don’t have the political character, a true measure of citizen concerns or the will to enforce the law. Do we really want to relegate all power to the state?



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