New California Criminal Laws: Do-Over

Speaking of new laws, last year we wrote about Senate Bill 227, which changed the Penal Code so that grand juries could no longer criminally indict or investigate a police officer’s deadly use of force. The stated rationale behind the law was that grand juries undermined the public’s trust in such cases because they lacked transparency and accountability. For more on grand-jury secrecy and the overall process, see here.

Well, never mind that new law because the California Court of Appeal just threw it out.

The Court held that the Legislature could not, by statute, restrict the power of grand juries to indict or investigate criminal cases because that power flowed from the state’s Constitution.

“The Legislature is not powerless to remedy the problem it has identified. It may submit a constitutional amendment to the electorate to remove the grand jury’s power to indict in cases involving a peace officer’s use of lethal force. It could also take the less cumbersome route of simply reforming the procedural rules of secrecy in such cases, which are not themselves constitutionally derived or necessary to the grand jury’s functioning….”

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