A new report gives progressives a major victory in Oregon’s long-running battle over criminal justice reform.
Prosecutors said a 2017 law requiring the recording of grand jury proceedings would lead to disaster, but their predictions turned out to be wrong.
“By all accounts, the implementation of Senate Bill 505 has gone smoothly,” says Mary Sofia, lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. “It is becoming clear that many of the concerns [prosecutors] cited in order to oppose the passage of the bill have simply not come to pass.”
Grand juries serve as gatekeepers in the criminal justice system, but their decision-making is shrouded in secrecy. In Oregon, prosecutors present a case to seven jurors, mustering witnesses, victims and evidence. Defendants have a right to testify, but most do not. Grand jurors then decide whether the state has a strong enough case to proceed to trial.
The proceedings are secret, in part to protect the privacy of those who don’t get indicted. And while the state knows every word uttered at a grand jury proceeding, the accused doesn’t hear a single sentence. Reformers say that stacks the deck in favor of prosecutors, who nearly always get the indictments they seek. That in turn can lead to unfair negotiations and draconian plea deals.Read More (Offsite)