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News Blog

DA denied grand jury for Willard shooting

by Stephen Dark
- Posted // 2014-01-22 -

According to several anonymous sources in local law enforcement, late last year the Salt Lake County District Attorney requested a state grand jury to hear evidence and testimony on the Danielle Willard fatal shooting by West Valley undercover officers but was turned down by the judges who vet such applications.

District Attorney Sim Gill and his deputy chief Blake Nakamura made a presentation to the panel of five judges regarding two WVC officers who, during an alleged drug bust, were involved in the shooting death of 21-year-old Willard, while she was alone in her car.

One of the judges, several sources informed City Weekly, told the D.A. they would not grant an application to empanel a grand jury - which can comprise of between 7 and 23 citizens - because they viewed the case as "political," and, as such, not appropriate for a grand jury.

Sim Gill declined to comment and would not confirm or deny that such a request had been made.

Grand juries are secret and even for someone involved in one to acknowledge it has taken place, or any business to do with a grand jury, is potentially a criminal offense.Grand juries hear evidence from witnesses in secret and then decide whether to hand down an indictment. No indictment, no publicity.

A grand jury has to decide that there is a clear and convincing evidence in order for a suspect to be indicted.

A recent story in the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted that DA Gill and other Utah prosecutors are pushing legislation to introduce an appeal process to the judges' decision-making.

Gill told the Tribune, "I can certainly tell you requests have been made and requests have been denied and the rationale [by the panel of judges] is all over the place."

The bill, which seeks both more specificity to what kind of cases prosecutors can ask for grand juries, and an option to turn to the Court of Appeals, if the decision is no, might alleviate concern in some quarters that the five judges who decide whether a case warrants a grand jury or not, lack oversight, since their yay or nays are final.

Utah is the only state where, one criminal attorney says, "you have to kiss a judge's derriere to get a grand jury."

The other side of the coin, as defense attorneys noted in the Trib piece, was that if, as in the rest of the country, prosecutors got to empanel grand juries themselves for typically complex cases involving corruption or fraud, then there is a concern that this could lead to a lack of accountability for prosecutors, who bypass a preliminary hearing before a judge in open court prior to an indictment being handed down.

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Posted // March 7,2014 at 18:11 The following article is from the Deseret News in 1967, regarding what may have been the last non-criminal report ever issued by a grand jury in Utah. The recomendations relate to the grand jury itself, on conflicting interests preventing the jury from properly performing their duty to prevent public wrongdoing or administrative deficiencies, and on the need for regular grand jury convention. Compare this request with the status quo, and see that not only were the primary recomendations ignored, but such recomendations have been prevented from showing up again. A grand jury opinion is the voice of the People's political arm, and should never be ignored, especially when the concern is public corruption. (Transcribed from newspaper image) Utah Grand Juries Need Better Tools Deseret News January 17, 1967 %u201CWhen Salt Lake and Weber counties impaneled grand juries in 1965 and 1966, respectively, they discovered that Utah law on the subject had grown rusty from disuse. They discovered, among other things, that: - Grand juries can be subject to the very officials they are investigating. The pay is so low that service on a grand jury may involve punishing sacrifices. - Instead of helping to prevent wrongdoing or administrative deficiencies, grand juries ordinarily aren%u2019t convened until public outcry is raised%u2014and by that time (unreadable) The Salt Lake County Grand Jury made several recommendations that bear careful consideration. Grand juries, the Salt Lake County Report said, should be convened every two years in counties with populations over 250,000; should be authorized to select their own investigators and counsel instead of having them named by the attorney general; should be paid more than $8 a day; and should be allowed to be more specific in reporting non-indictable misconduct by public officials. Some parallel suggestions were made the past weekend by Third District Judge Aldon J. Anderson, who was in charge of the Salt Lake Grand Jury. Among other things, he recommended that district courts hold hearings every two years, hearing in secret any and all witnesses desiring to appear. On the basis of that testimony, the judges would determine if a grand jury should be convened. Also, that the jury be allowed to approve its investigator or counsel, that it be given power to report its recommendations on improving procedures, and that the law be amended to define more clearly what constitutes malfeasance. Which of the two suggestions for calling a grand jury is best will require some study. But there should be no doubt about other recommendations. As this page has noted before, any official or group can function better with assistants of its own choosing, in whom they have confidence. Moreover, since grand juries aren%u2019t impaneled unless confidence in normal law enforcement channels breaks down, it doesn%u2019t make sense to vest the selection of key personnel for a grand jury in the hands of usual law enforcement officials. When the Salt Lake Grand Jury was first impaneled, its members were paid only $4 a day, which by a special ruling was subsequently raised to the $8 a day paid trial jury members. But trial juries ordinarily serve for only a few days or weeks, whereas grand jurors may have to be away from their jobs for months on end. The pay level should be raised without making it so high that jurors would prolong their work endlessly. Although incompetence among public officials isn%u2019t always illegal, the public ought to be told where it exists. Florida, New York, and other states enable their grand juries to do just that without unjustly dragging public servants%u2019 names through the mud. Utah should be able to do as much. As far as convening grand juries regularly, the mere knowledge that this could happen ought to help deter wrongdoing and keep public officials on their toes. Two different special sessions of the Legislature have come and gone since most of these findings and recommendations were first made. With the regular session now underway, improvement of Utah%u2019s grand jury laws is in order. %u201D

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // March 7,2014 at 18:10 The following article is from the Deseret News in 1967, regarding what may have been the last non-criminal report ever issued by a grand jury in Utah. The recomendations relate to the grand jury itself, on conflicting interests preventing the jury from properly performing their duty to prevent public wrongdoing or administrative deficiencies, and on the need for regular grand jury convention. Compare this request with the status quo, and see that not only were the primary recomendations ignored, but such recomendations have been prevented from showing up again. A grand jury opinion is the voice of the People's political arm, and should never be ignored, especially when the concern is public corruption. (Transcribed from newspaper image) Utah Grand Juries Need Better Tools Deseret News January 17, 1967 %u201CWhen Salt Lake and Weber counties impaneled grand juries in 1965 and 1966, respectively, they discovered that Utah law on the subject had grown rusty from disuse. They discovered, among other things, that: - Grand juries can be subject to the very officials they are investigating. The pay is so low that service on a grand jury may involve punishing sacrifices. - Instead of helping to prevent wrongdoing or administrative deficiencies, grand juries ordinarily aren%u2019t convened until public outcry is raised%u2014and by that time (unreadable) The Salt Lake County Grand Jury made several recommendations that bear careful consideration. Grand juries, the Salt Lake County Report said, should be convened every two years in counties with populations over 250,000; should be authorized to select their own investigators and counsel instead of having them named by the attorney general; should be paid more than $8 a day; and should be allowed to be more specific in reporting non-indictable misconduct by public officials. Some parallel suggestions were made the past weekend by Third District Judge Aldon J. Anderson, who was in charge of the Salt Lake Grand Jury. Among other things, he recommended that district courts hold hearings every two years, hearing in secret any and all witnesses desiring to appear. On the basis of that testimony, the judges would determine if a grand jury should be convened. Also, that the jury be allowed to approve its investigator or counsel, that it be given power to report its recommendations on improving procedures, and that the law be amended to define more clearly what constitutes malfeasance. Which of the two suggestions for calling a grand jury is best will require some study. But there should be no doubt about other recommendations. As this page has noted before, any official or group can function better with assistants of its own choosing, in whom they have confidence. Moreover, since grand juries aren%u2019t impaneled unless confidence in normal law enforcement channels breaks down, it doesn%u2019t make sense to vest the selection of key personnel for a grand jury in the hands of usual law enforcement officials. When the Salt Lake Grand Jury was first impaneled, its members were paid only $4 a day, which by a special ruling was subsequently raised to the $8 a day paid trial jury members. But trial juries ordinarily serve for only a few days or weeks, whereas grand jurors may have to be away from their jobs for months on end. The pay level should be raised without making it so high that jurors would prolong their work endlessly. Although incompetence among public officials isn%u2019t always illegal, the public ought to be told where it exists. Florida, New York, and other states enable their grand juries to do just that without unjustly dragging public servants%u2019 names through the mud. Utah should be able to do as much. As far as convening grand juries regularly, the mere knowledge that this could happen ought to help deter wrongdoing and keep public officials on their toes. Two different special sessions of the Legislature have come and gone since most of these findings and recommendations were first made. With the regular session now underway, improvement of Utah%u2019s grand jury laws is in order. %u201D

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // March 5,2014 at 15:01 -- PUBLIC NOTICE -- INTENT OF CITIZEN'S TO IMPANEL AND CONVENE GRAND JURIES IN COUNTIES AND TERRITORIES OF UTAH http://www. ksl. com/index. php?nid=218&ad=28847495&cat=8

 

 
 
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