Grand Jury Task Force Releases Final Report
The Task Force to Examine Improvements to the Ohio Grand Jury System issued its final report and recommendations today to the Ohio Supreme Court. Convened by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the task force’s recommendations are intended to improve the public’s trust and confidence in the grand jury system.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Stephen L. McIntosh served as task force chair. Wayne County Prosecutor Daniel R. Lutz served as vice chair. The 18-member statewide task force included a diverse group of judges, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, law professors, legislators, a member of law enforcement, and community leaders.
In January, Chief Justice O’Connor delivered the group’s charge. “To be clear, this task force is being asked to recommend ways to improve the functioning of grand juries and to see what additional steps can be taken to improve the public’s confidence in our justice system,” she said. “It is not being asked to determine whether the grand jury system should be eliminated.”
She also noted in her remarks that the concept of a grand jury has been part of the U.S. Constitution since 1791 and a constant in the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights as far back as 1803. Every state constitutional revision since has preserved the institution of the grand jury.
Among the report’s 10 recommendations are:
- Grant the Ohio Attorney General’s Office exclusive authority to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute police lethal use of force cases.
- Establish a process for the release of the grand jury record under limited circumstances.
- Create education and outreach programs to improve the public’s understanding of the role of the grand jury in Ohio’s criminal justice system. Programs would be directed to the general public and students.
- Strengthen grand jury independence.
- Expand Ohio Jury Instructions to emphasize the grand jury’s role as an independent arbiter of facts in each case.
- Improve grand jury orientation.
Judge McIntosh acknowledged the group’s difficult task. “The grand jury system has come under intense scrutiny of late because of events in Ohio and across the country,” he said. “These events have generated public concern that required us to review the existing system. I hope that the recommendations within this report have achieved the goals articulated by the Chief Justice.”
Public comment is being sought and should be submitted in writing or via email to:
John VanNorman, Policy and Research Counsel
Ohio Supreme Court
65 S. Front St., Seventh Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
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