The grand jurors’ view: What is a grand jury?
El Dorado County Grand Jury.
Where did it come from, what does it do and how does it work? Many citizens have a limited understanding of their county grand jury.
Hopefully, you will find this introductory article about your county grand jury informative. It was prepared by members of the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association, a volunteer organization of current and former California grand jurors.
Our association’s purpose is to support the grand jury process and provide educational information to all residents of El Dorado County. We thank the Mountain Democrat and its affiliates for distributing periodic articles under the banner, “The grand jurors’ view.” We invite all readers to look for future updates.
The grand jury first started in the 12th century in England to serve the king. Through the centuries, it grew into protecting ordinary citizens against those that governed. Our country’s first formal grand jury was established in Massachusetts in 1635 and the concept soon spread to all colonies and expanded to include civil oversight of government by the late 1600s.
The U.S. Constitution first referenced the grand jury upon enactment of its Fifth Amendment, which notes indictment by a grand jury to answer for capital or otherwise infamous crimes.
The California Constitution has always recognized county grand juries and the reference remains today in Article 1, Section 23. Since 1851 the state Legislature has granted authority for the grand jury, which is found today in the California Penal Code under Sections 888-939. Early California laws allowed grand juries to inquire into public prisons, later laws specified powers to investigate county government, and then further expansions included cities and special districts.
During the 1890s a number of California county grand juries, led by a widely publicized case in San Francisco, investigated and exposed major corruption in their local governments and gained the favor and strong backing of California voters.
After England abandoned its centuries-old grand jury system in 1933, many states moved to reform the authority of their grand juries and limit their oversight of government. While a number of states have some limited form of grand juries today, usually dedicated to criminal indictments, California continues with a fully functioning grand jury system.
California’s current grand jury system provides for regular grand juries in each of the state’s 58 counties, which are impaneled by the Superior Court once a year. The regular grand jury serves for one year and is primarily dedicated to oversight of all governmental agencies within a given county.
While the regular grand jury retains the legal power to cast indictments for criminal violations, the Superior Court in each county may also impanel an additional grand jury at the request of the district attorney to serve for a limited period of time to investigate specific allegations of criminal violations by one or more individuals.
California’s county grand jury system, providing a watchful check-and-balance on local government, is a powerful example of democracy in action unique not only to our country but the world today.
Chuck MacLean is president of the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association. Contact him at EDCGJA@gmail.com or at PO Box 383, Placerville 95667.
Discussion | 1 comment
Pat HamerJanuary 26, 2013 – 12:01 pm
Through the centuries, it grew into protecting ordinary citizens against those that governed. California laws… specified powers to investigate county government, and then further expansions included cities and special districts. Chuck, to finish your article, it should say: However, the above quotes are not tolerated in El Dorado County, and as a member of the Local Press, when our grand jury is asked to investigate, “… protecting ordinary citizens against those that governed” who are acting outside of the law,” We journalists, cannot take the objective unbiased approach, we must aid in “Fundamentally misconstruing facts,” in order that we do not get fired. For instance. Where is the story about Judge James Wagoner, the serial constituent molester, repeatedly found guilty of abuse of power by using County and State funds to torture, threaten, jail, steal assets of citizen. Was not he the so-called “Grand Jury Advisor?” Your article says, “Through the centuries, it [grand jury] grew into protecting ordinary citizens against those that governed. However, as you can see, “those that govern, such as James Wagoner, has infiltrated and made ineffective, the “protecting” part. Here is the Judicial Counsel article stating the perverted illegal crimes against “ordinary,” non criminal civil right activists. http://cjp.ca.gov/res/docs/public_admon/Wagoner_DO_9-13-11.pdf No wonder you rarely see African Americans in this county! These white bigots, eat their own young! In actuality, our precious United States of America, are only as corrupt as the press allows them to be. Hey, you know that monument at the end of Cedar Ravine and Main Street? It says it was dedicated by Druids? What’s all that about? Inquiring minds want to know! John F. Kennedy was talking about arbitrary external abuses of the press regarding the press, and “secret societies” prior to his assassination. How did the “arbitrary restrictions” become internalized?” Now the press voluntarily covers up open corruption, creating injustice in the outcomes of elections, that, if the truth be known, would possibly benefit all mankind, accept for you and your friend the MT (empty) democrat protect. JFK speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xhZk8ronces