In response to the pandemic, one New Mexico County convened grand juries to indict, and eliminated preliminary hearings and jury trials. The result? More indictments, fewer speedy trial rights
I work as a prosecutor in NYC. Back in March 2020, Cuomo issued an executive order that suspended all sorts of criminal procedure law, including speedy trial time. There was no speedy trial time on felony or misdemeanor cases in New York until about August, at which time parts of the CPL were reinstituted, and speedy trial for misdemeanors and indicted felonies in early October. Currently though, there are no criminal trials happening in NYC. The backlog is absolutely insane. We’ve done our best to dismiss as many cases as possible, but my bureau, domestic violence, is completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases. It’s such a tragedy. People are incarcerated pre-trial, but others have been released for health concerns only to go on and further abuse their partners. It’s a very difficult time for trying to pursue justice
Thank you for talking about those with no voice. The American legal system is an embarrassment. For a country obsessed with lecturing on freedom, we incarcerate more of our citizens than any other developed country. We incarcerate them and the whole corrupt, filthy system is designed to keep people buried forever in jail even if they are not guilty. I cannot understand this American obsession with locking up people. It fucks my mind with no lube.
Mr. Taibbi posted this article about the incarceration of potentially innocent people at the same time he posted his article on Rush Limbaugh's death.
The Rush article currently has over 1.000 posts, this article has 58.
What are we to make of this? The American people seem to have endless energy to discuss the death of some rich blowhard who spent his entire life serving no one but himself, but just can't seem to take an rooting interest in the incarceration of innocent American citizens due to our criminal system taking advantage of the pandemic to change the rules in their favor.
A admire Matt for putting in the time to report on a story of those who have no voice no one else cares about, but I'm disheartened by the general lack of interest. I was raised to think American's were a basically decent people who made mistakes, but managed to always get it right on the big things. I worry that is no longer the case.
“Whoever has experienced the power and the unrestrained ability to humiliate another human being automatically loses his own sensations. Tyranny is a habit, it has its own organic life, it develops finally into a disease. The habit can kill and coarsen the very best man or woman to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate ... the return of the human dignity, repentance and regeneration becomes almost impossible.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead
And, yeah, Matt, really great article about a subject I care a lot about.
My first thought was, what a gigantic waste of government money.
Thank you Matt for writing about something that will never make the nightly news. Mainly because there is no entertainment value in empathy and nuance.
"The taxpayers don't know about it. " There is so much about the grand jury process that the public either doesn't know about or ignores. I think some prosecutors funnel ALL weak cases through the grand jury, because the prosecutorial advantages accrue further down the road, especially getting a guilty plea the easy way. Matt, this is an incredibly important story, obviously for all the defendants, but also for the rest of us, because we are next. I especially prize your work because you'll do stories that are unlikely to be popular despite their importance in public policy. Keep it up.
SE New Mexico includes Otero County, home of Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin, who, according to Alamogordo Daily News "after being jailed in connection with the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C... Griffin was back in attendance at the Feb. 11 Otero County Commission meeting." He and his "Cowboys For Trump" have showed up here in northern New Mexico warning us about busloads of masked Antifa fighters willing to raise hell for supposed BLM protests. Thanks for the heads up on the nitty gritty of the south end of New Mexico. You sure don't hear about it out of the Albuquerque press.
Respectfully, Matt, I think your advocate-source took you for a ride. There are several differences between grand jury and trial jury proceedings that make virus-related accommodations easier for the former. As you say, the grand jury is secret, which means it doesn't have to happen in open court and no press or members of the public are permitted. This makes it easier to socially distance people present in the courtroom, and it vastly simplifies the court's need to control and test who is coming in and out. Also, it takes a fraction of the time to present a case to a grand jury that it takes to have a trial. Summoning enough jurors for a limited number of grand juries, operating for limited terms and prioritizing the most important cases, is much easier than summoning enough jurors for a fully-running trial system. Huge difference in the required traffic flow at the court, which is what the virus controls aim to prevent. Finally, with the exception of cases where defendants are held in on bail (which is an increasingly small percentage of defendants in most counties), defense attorneys are mostly thrilled to have trial delayed indefinitely. Cases don't get stronger with age, and offers become more generous as the caseload rises. tl;dr, don't believe everything you read on an advocate's Twitter.
I believe the US is one of only two countries that retains the grand jury system.
As Bertrand Russell so wisely said, the state should have a national system of judicial defense as well as prosecution as it is just as much if not of more interest to society to protect the innocent from being convicted as it is to bring the guilty to justice.
I live in North Carolina. I was called to jury duty last month and assigned to the Grand Jury for this county for the next year. We have had one session so far. We were told explicitly not to consider guilt or innocence. We were directed to only consider whether an arresting officer showed that a crime had been committed and had enough evidence to go to trial. A few of the cases that day had some questionable charges, but we could only look at the whole, not at parts. If a majority of the 18 jurors said yes, there was a crime committed and the officer seemed to have enough evidence to proceed, then it went to trial as a felony. Otherwise, it still went to trial but as a misdemeanor or civil offense. The only ones we saw were the officers presenting the arrest reports, often not the arresting officers.
Speaking as a criminal, or crim, I think, like the Bertrand Russel quote above, the onus on the courts (without stating the obvious) is to:-
Have fair, speedy, open trials that cannot be derailed on the pretext of medical exigencies;
Seek to limit the time prisoners are detained on remand to the minimum;
Delineate clear rules for using Grand Juries eg. take decisions out of prosecutors’ hands;
Do not jail addicts solely for their addiction. Get them treatment. Same goes for mentally ill;
Do not stack a jury against people of colour;
Minimise solitary confinement.
There’s plenty more but I don’t know enough.
So are we not going to talk about the fact that we've let tons and tons of dangerous criminals out of jail, during the pandemic? Especially county jails. I have spoke to several people who work for the DOC that have reported back that many violent sex offenders are being released almost immediately. It may be a result of some of the above factors, but they are being released nonetheless. To say that the government is using the pandemic to force more people into jail is just misleading. They're letting thousands of dangerous criminals out of jail, not vice versa and using the pandemic as an excuse.
Limbaugh would've known how to popularize this dry, legalistic content. But he's dead.
"During the pandemic, however, jury trials were suspended in many jurisdictions. In some of those places, it was understood that speedy trial rights simply had to be put on hold until officials could, as Donald Trump would say, figure out what the hell is going on." Why does Taibbi mention Trump in this report? Does he have a personal relationship with Trump? Is this a famous Trump paraphrase? Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump!
"Covid-19 struck hard at the elderly in rest homes..." (Fact check this statement with Cuomo). " ...but the population that took perhaps the toughest hit was behind bars. By June, the rate of infection in America’s jails and prisons was seven times that of the general population." Oh wait, I thought were were comparing prison populations to rest home populations? And infection rates are worse than death rates? Great journalism here, Matt.
"However, official concern for jury safety seemed limited in some places to trials. Police continued to arrest people and prosecutors continued to use grand juries to indict."
And surfing alone in the Pacific got you arrested, but going to Target with thousands is OK. Anti lockdown protests are bad, but blm protests without masks are mostly peaceful AND ok. Florida has been open since September, and has similar graphs to California, which has had brutal and savage lockdowns. I can go to Wal Mart but the local restaurant down the block from me here in NYC has only recently been 'allowed' to have 25 percent capacity.
Hey Matt: You need to put your head down, close your mouth and FOLLOW THE SCIENCE PUNK!