Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Corrections Officer Ain't No Ham Sandwich

The idea is that the grand jury is a check on prosecutorial abuse.  You get a bunch of citizens who scrutinize the prosecutor's evidence, challenge it even, and decide whether there's probable cause to believe the accused is guilty.  Not whether the accused is guilty.  Whether there's probable cause.

In theory, they grand jurors get to call witnesses and question them.  The grand jury can investigate. Theory, of course, bears almost no relationship to reality.  In reality, grand juries do what prosecutors want them to do. (But see the runaway grand jury in Harris County, Texas a few years ago.)

If the prosecutor wants an indictment, the prosecutor gets an indictment.  (Hence that line credited to Sol Wachtler that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.) And if the prosecutor doesn't want an indictment?  Darren Wilson in Ferguson for the killing of Michael Brown.  Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island for the killing of Eric Garner.  And the cop in your town.

But, wait, you say.  Isn't that just the GJ doing its job?  Deciding that the evidence wasn't there?  How disingenuously cynical you are, Gamso, to suggest that the prosecutors manipulated the evidence, intentionally presented weak cases.  You don't know.  The prosecutors sandbagged.  Maybe the evidence just sucked.

Well, sure.  I suppose.  I mean anything's possible.  But you know, I don't make this shit up out of whole cloth.  (Well, yeah, actually I do.  But someone wove that cloth into a coat.  OK, I've dragged this idiot metaphor out to the point of incoherence.  I'll go on.)

Come with me, then, you doubters, to Charlotte County, Florida.  Population per the 2010 census 159,978. County seat Punta Gorda.  Where the state's attorney for the 20th Circuit, Stephen Russell, is in charge of presenting evidence and giving legal advice to the grand jury.  Which State's Attorney Russell had three of his henchmen assistants do in regard to the April 2014 killing of Matthew Walker.

Matthew Walker
In the Charlotte Correctional Institution.  By corrections officers.  During a late night cell check that in fact (per Adam Kreger of Sun Newspapers) violated CCI policy.  "Walker’s larynx was crushed, and he took several blows to the head, neck and torso."

There was an investigation.  
[F]ive of the dozen corrections workers involved could have potentially faced criminal charges.
Five?  Twelve were involved?

Hey, shit happens.

The case went to the grand jury.  Whose proceedings are secret.  As in the grand jurors can get in serious trouble, as in felony charges, for revealing what happened behind those closed doors.  But for an 85-year-old woman who sat un the grand jury enough is enough.

In June, the grand jury returned a no bill.  Refused to indict anyone.  
“It has really bothered me all this time,” said Louise Salcedo. “We all knew they were guilty and should have been prosecuted, but we were talked out of indicting them. This man was beaten to death.”
Not that there wasn't probable cause.  But because why prosecute prison guards just cause they beat a guy to death.  Hell, he was a prisoner.  Shit happens.
“They told us the chances of convictions were very slim,” Salcedo said. “I find it baffling ... very confusing.”
The paper tracked down the grand jury foreman.  Oath of secrecy.  He wouldn't talk.  Salcedo, on the other hand, tracked down the paper.
“After reading everything in the paper, I feel guilty that I maybe could have done something better,” Salcedo said.
The grand juror said she believes all the guards present during the fatal beating “were guilty of watching this and not stopping this.”
She said they all knew it.  But they didn't indict anyway. 
A community-driven candlelight vigil was held outside the Charlotte Correctional Institution on Wednesday. The ceremony remembered Walker’s death and aimed to let state officials know people want justice for the homicide and others who have died at the prison.

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A desire which, along with 10 bucks, might buy a ham sandwich.

Of course, in Charlotte, that ham sandwich won't get indicted.  At least not if it's a prison guard's.

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