This spring the Georgia Legislature voted in favor of grand jury reform, which is set to change the way grand jury proceedings are conducted following an officer involved shooting. The new rules will limit the amount of evidence police officers can see and hear against themselves at a grand jury hearing in a shooting case. As of July 1st the new changes will take effect. The new grand jury rules hope to give more credibility to the grand jury process following an officer involved shooting.
House Bill 941 sets out to make grand jury hearings concerning police shooting more fair and balanced. HB 941 puts limits on how long the officer is allowed to sit in and listen to the grand jury hearing, by only allowing them in the grand jury room to give their testimony. Previously, officers were allowed to sit in on the entire grand jury proceedings, which gave rise to the concern that officers were tailoring their defense based on the information they heard during the grand jury hearing.
An additional rule change brought about by HB 941 allows officers to be cross-examined by prosecutors. The antiquated Georgia law allowed officers to give their testimony about the shooting without having to face cross examination from the prosecutor. The new law sets to put police officers at an equal level with everyone else during a grand jury hearing. Giving prosecutors the ability to cross-examine officers during these hearing is a win for the criminal justice system as a whole. If we want the findings of these hearings to be res pected by the people we need to do everything in our power to ensure they are conducted with fairness, and HB 941 provides that fairness.
Following in the wake of public out cry following officer-involved shootings around the country this bill shows that Georgia wants to be on the forefront of change. If a grand jury declines to indict an officer following a shooting, the jurors involved will provide a report of the evidence, as well as their reasoning not to indict public for all to see. Additionally, the district attorney will make the evidence and transcripts from the hearing available to the public.
This bill provides more credibility to the grand jury process, when an officer is involved in a shooting. This bill represents the type of criminal justice reform that is supported by the people. HB 941 creates an open dialogue between the state and the citizens, and hopefully this openness is a step away from public outcry and protests and a step toward unity and equality.