Rep. Johnson re-introduces Grand Jury Reform Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to calls that the nation’s grand jury system is broken when police are investigated for the killing of civilians, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) today re-introduced the “Grand Jury Reform Act, H.R. 429.”

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The bill requires the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation and present the results to a judge in a probable cause hearing, open to the public, whenever a police officer kills an individual while acting in the line of duty.  Passage of this bill would help restore trust in our justice system, while ensuring a fair process for all parties.

The “Grand Jury Reform Act” also specifies that in order for local law enforcement agencies to receive federal funding, they would have to comply with this new process. If enacted, the governor of the state where the incident in question occurred would appoint a prosecutor, who would present evidence on behalf of the state at the hearing. The preliminary hearing would also remain open to the public, except as determined appropriate by the presiding judge.

“People demand an end to what is perceived as unequal justice, and that those who are responsible for the use of excessive force be brought to justice,” said Johnson. “They do not trust a secret grand jury system that is so clearly broken. My bill will help restore that trust.  No longer will communities have to rely on the secret and biased grand jury process.”  

A strong majority of likely 2016 voters back a proposal for outside special prosecutors to investigate police-involved deaths, according to a new poll released by the Progressive Change Institute. Sixty-one percent of those polled back the proposal, including 76 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Independents. A plurality of Republicans – 48 percent – also support the plan.

“According to this poll, one thing that Americans of all political stripes can agree on is the need for special outside prosecutors to be appointed when police are involved in the killings of civilians,” the Progressive Change Institute said in a statement.

Cosponsors include Reps: Chu (CA), B. Lee (CA), Rangel (NY), Ellison (MN), Jackson-Lee (TX), Thompson (MS), Holmes Norton (DC), Conyers (MI), Wilson (FL), Lacy Clay (MS), Cicilline (RI), Bass (CA),  E. Johnson (TX), Davis (IL), Gutierrez (IL), Donald Beyer (VA), GK Butterfield (NC), Nadler (NY), Scott (D-GA), Jeffries (NY), Lewis (GA), Lujan (NM), Takano (CA), Veasey (TX), Waters (CA), Pierluisi (PR) and is supported by National Urban League.

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