THE GRAND JURY: An Institution on Trial by Marvin E. & Gary P. Naftalis Frankel

THE GRAND JURY: An Institution on Trial

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Originating in the dim recesses of British Common Law, the grand jury was abolished in England in 1933. Aware that public consciousness of the issue lags here, Frankel and Naftalis present a strong, cogent brief for the reform of the institution which currently acts not to safeguard witnesses from capricious prosecution, but solely to fortify the prosecutor. A grand jury may rely on hearsay and speculation; it may summon witnesses not for investigation but for harassment, and has been known to trap witnesses into perjury--especially when a gang-busting DA is out to ""get"" an individual or a group. Though Frankel, a District Court judge, and Naftalis, an attorney, eventually opt for retaining the grand jury, they propose a series of procedural changes which would entitle witnesses to counsel, to a transcript of their testimony, and to clearer definitions of which questions are out of bounds. To encourage fairness and something other than supine obedience to the prosecutor's whim, they also recommend a presiding judge. Withal, they are careful to keep the functions of grand and petit juries distinct and to prevent the former from becoming another adversary proceeding. The chief objection will he a practical one: can the already overtaxed judicial system afford the added costs? The audience will be limited by the legally complex arguments and the court cases cited, but the evenhanded presentation of the pros and cons of reform should help educate persons beyond the legal fraternity.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1977
Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux