Prosecutor Rejects Use of Grand Jury in Trayvon Martin Shooting

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey has decided against using the grand jury to investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Corey says the grand jury isn't needed and the case is still being investigated. She says ""The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case." She previously said she's never used one before in investigating whether a case involved justifiable homicide and she has previously said she may or may not use the grand jury in this case. The initial decision to use the grand jury was made by State's Attorney Norm Wolfinger, before he recused himself from the case. /p>

Here is her actual statement, courtesy of NBC 6 Miami.

I have no clue which way she is leaning.

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    Well (none / 0) (#1)
    by CoralGables on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:23:06 PM EST
    "I have no clue which way she is leaning"

    That pretty much wipes out my question on today's events.

    All I can figure is that perhaps (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:45:12 PM EST
    the investigation is leaning in the direction of charges even without a grand jury being involved; at this stage, I would almost think a grand jury would be most useful in a no-charges-CYA scenario - as in, "we followed all the protocol and procedure and the GJ doesn't find the evidence sufficient."

    But, who knows - it's not like there is anything about this case that seems to be following any kind of predictable course.


    According to Roland Martin on CNN (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:51:05 PM EST
    just now, fwiw, the Martin family did not want to risk a grand jury and much prefers the special prosecutor make the decision on whether to charge.

    That lady's got b***s, I got to say, to be willing to take the responsibility for making this decision, which will cause a huge uproar whichever way it goes, all by herself.


    Completely agree (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by TomMaguire on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:03:18 PM EST
    I thought a no-charge would be stronger coming from the grand jury (even though, in addition to being able to indict ham sandwiches, a motivated prosecutor could get a no-charge against Al Capone).

    A pure 'I don't know the law especially in Florida' guess - if she goes to a grand jury then grand jury secrecy rules become an issue; if she just announces a no-charge she can also deliver a prosecutor's report.

    Well - either she charges him and it's off to court, or she releases a report.  There is no way she just announces Zimmerman is free to go and expects everyone to move on.


    I think if the police had issued a more (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:54:20 PM EST
    complete statement addressing explaining their reasoning it would have gone a long way. I hope the special prosecutor will not repeat that mistake if she decides not to charge.

    I withdraw my "grand jury secrecy" idea (none / 0) (#11)
    by TomMaguire on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:46:42 PM EST
    Apparently Florida grand juries can issue a report after a non-indictment:

    "Whether or not an indictment is returned, the grand jury subsequently may issue a report or presentment. That report will contain the grand jury's findings and may make recommendations. Florida Statutes Section 905.28(1) (2007) provides a mechanism for redacting or suppressing presentments which name unindicted individuals..."

    Ok, I am back to expecting charges or a report.  Gutsy.


    A longshot quest for a clue... (none / 0) (#13)
    by TomMaguire on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:58:51 PM EST
    1.  Grand juries can issue reports;
    2.  The public will demand either an indictment or an explanation;
    3.  She won't be using a grand jury.

    So, IF there is no mechanism other than a grand jury for a prosecutor to issue a report, we should expect an indictment.

    That assumption should be checkable, and it would sort of surprise me if grand juries could issue reports but prosecutors could not (I would expect it to be both or neither).

    Hence, a longshot.  I have not been able to pin down the reporting power of a Florida prosecutor, but it seems like it ought to be an easy question for a Florida reporter or attorney.


    Grand juries can be both ... (none / 0) (#14)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:52:10 PM EST
    ... useful tool of justice or a hindrance, depending upon the circumstances. Obviously, State's Attorney Angela Corey has every confidence in her ability and capacity to make the right call here on the basis of the prevailing atate law.

    But let's also remember that there have been instances in the past -- particularly in certain unnamed parts of the country, whenever racial components have been introduced into the discussion -- where grand juries have been pointedly predisposed toward a refusal to act, despite clear and unambiguous evidence presented to them that an indictment is clearly warranted.

    In those instances, for whatever the rationale, grand jurors were allowed to grant themselves considerable leeway to extra-legally adjudicate the guilt or innocence of the suspect(s), rather than simply determine if enough evidence exists to warrant the case going to trial, as is the primary purpose of a grand jury.

    I'll offer up one example with which I'm very familiar, the notorious "Massie Affair" here in Honolulu, which rocked the country back in 1931-32. In this instance, an all-white male grand jury (back in the day, women were generally prohibited from jury duty in the United States) initially refused to indict Bell Telephone heiress Grace Bell Fortescue, her son-in-law Navy Lt. Thomas Massie and two Navy enlisted men, Edward Lord and Deacon Jones, for the kidnapping and subsequent shooting death of Joseph Kahahawai, a 21-year-old Hawaiian who had been earlier accused -- quite falsely, as it was subsequently shown -- of the rape and assault of Lt. Massie's 20-year-old wife, Thalia.

    Three separate times, Judge Albert Christy refused to accept the grand jury's report of no indictment, and three times he had to remind the jurors that three of the suspects had been apprehended red-handed while trying to dispose of Kahahawai's body in the Pacific Ocean just off then-rural east Oahu, while the fourth had further admitted -- and even bragged about -- killing him to the Honolulu police.

    Christy also correctly surmised after interviewing individual jurors that they were wrongly considering the race and social status of both the accused and the deceased, in making their determination that Mrs. Fortescue, Lt. Massie and their two cohorts were simply upholding the unspoken "white man's code of honor" -- to use the former grand jury foreman's words -- in killing young Kahahawai.

    After the third refusal, when Judge Christy learned that the aforementioned grand jury foreman -- who was an executive with the local firm Dillingham Corp., which held lucrative contracts with the U.S. Navy -- was under outside instructions from his boss to prevent an indictment, he removed him from that post, appointed another and then sent the jurors back for further deliberations. Whereupon, they voted 12 to 8 to indict Mrs. Fortescue, Lt. Massie and Seamen Lord and Jones, on the felony charge of second-degree murder.

    Anyway, that sort of predisposition, while probably rare, is one of the potential pitfalls of the grand jury process, especially in those cases that have taken upon a controversial and / or political element, which might cause grand jurors to make an emotional decision (or in the Massie case, a selfish business decision), rather than conduct a dispassionate determination of the facts of the case as presented to them.



    Seriously... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Rojas on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:05:47 PM EST
    You live in a state that treats it's indigenous population worse than any other state in the country and you have to go back 8 decades???

    And you pride yourself on being part of the political system?
    Why things never change...


    And just as seriously, what does ... (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:32:48 PM EST
    ... my place of residency have to do specifically with the topic at hand? Or are you just looking to pick a fight?

    And before you spew any more about how Native Hawaiians are treated in the islands, a topic about which I'd offer better than even odds that you probably know very little, I'd suggest that you first take a trip to the area of Pine Ridge and Standing Rock reservations in the Dakotas, and then observe how the white residents treat the native Lakota.



    As Mitt would say... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Lacy on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 07:20:20 AM EST

    And it was a very interesting story.


    Or was it (none / 0) (#29)
    by Lacy on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 07:22:57 AM EST

    When you refer to those (none / 0) (#34)
    by Rojas on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:04:47 PM EST
    "certain unnamed parts of the country" with regards to racism while speaking of Hawaii as though it were a example of enlightenment.... No stat bears that out.
    You are the perfect caricature of the so-called liberal...
    I'll just leave it at that.

    Spelling Alert: "Prosecutor" in the (none / 0) (#2)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:40:44 PM EST
    post title transposes the "u" and the "c."

    thanks, fixed now (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:06:16 PM EST
    It does rule out a murder-one charge (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:49:52 PM EST
    Under Florida law, only first-degree murder cases require the use of grand juries.

    I was not expecting one, but it does take that option off the table.

    I've always assumed (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by CoralGables on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:54:57 PM EST
    manslaughter would be the eventual charge.

    I have not reviewed the Florida statutes (none / 0) (#10)
    by Peter G on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:16:57 PM EST
    and don't have time to, just now, but in general, in American state criminal law, a killing done in the sincere but objectively unreasonable belief that the killing is justified (typically, self-defense) is treated as a species of voluntary manslaughter.

    in Florida (none / 0) (#9)
    by CoralGables on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:15:01 PM EST
    (1) The killing of a human being by the act,
    procurement, or culpable negligence of another,
    without lawful justification according to the
    provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter,
    a felony of the second degree, punishable as
    provided in s. 775.082, s.775.083, or s. 775.084.

    NBC News is reporting that (none / 0) (#15)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:33:56 PM EST
    Zimmerman's lawyers have confirmed that he has set up a web page soliciting funds for a defense, if one is needed.

    Just watching, so no link.

    And I'm not going to any George Zimmerman web page.

    And it is NBC...

    His lawyers have said (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:58:19 PM EST
    there would be a website. There's nothing wrong with that. Here's the link, but the site is down.

    And please let's try to stay relevant here to the grand jury decision and related issues.


    10 to 1 she will charge him (none / 0) (#16)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:13:59 PM EST

    This is a high profile case that can make your reputation one way or the other.  Winning a prosecution has much more political upside than dismissing.  

    BTW, you may recall that in the Duke lacrosse case although factually dissimilar bring charges was very good politically for the DA.  At least until the hoax was revealed.


    Your (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:32:15 PM EST
    fellow conservatives want her to charge Zimmerman with something because if he walks, there is going to be national outrage against the conceal to carry laws and they will go down all over the country as it has been shown that they are more or less a license to murder.

    So you're suggesting ... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Yman on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:34:48 PM EST
    10 to 1 she will charge him

    This is a high profile case that can make your reputation one way or the other.  Winning a prosecution has much more political upside than dismissing.

    ... she will likely charge him for political reasons, rather than based on the law and results of the investigation.



    I'm shocked, shocked... (none / 0) (#25)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:32:30 PM EST
    Has anyone ever heard of a prosecutor prosecuting a case for political reasons?  Absurd.

    Try a Xanax (5.00 / 0) (#27)
    by Yman on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 06:15:46 AM EST
    Has anyone ever heard of a prosecutor prosecuting a case for political reasons?  Absurd.

    Of course it's happened before.  I'm just laughing about the fact that he would make a completely unfounded accusation about what she will do in the future based on absolutely nothing more than sheer speculation.  Of course, if she decides to charge Zimmerman, it will be for "political reasons".  In the unlikely (10-1) event that she doesn't charge Zimmerman, it will be because she applied the facts to the law.  Transparent, ...

    ... but funny.


    I don't think this prosecutor is worried (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by caseyOR on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:49:51 PM EST
    about making her reputation. She has been around for quite awhile, and is no stranger to high-profile cases.

    According to CBS News, she is a conservative, for whatever that is worth.

    All we know for sure, now that the use of a grand jury has been ruled out, is that Zimmerman will not be charged with first degree murder. On CBS News they said the prosecutor may announce her decision on whether or not to charge Zimmerman as soon as tomorrow.


    I would (none / 0) (#26)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 05:31:33 AM EST
    think that 1st degree was never really on the table with this case. I suppose Zimmerman could be charged with 2nd degree murder.

    I read in this in the NY Times this morning: (none / 0) (#30)
    by Angel on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:04:37 AM EST
    "If Ms. Corey decided to file charges against Mr. Zimmerman, a judge must hold a special pretrial hearing under the Stand Your Ground law to determine whether Mr. Zimmerman's actions fall within the protections afforded by the statute. If so, he can end the proceeding there, granting the defendant immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits, said Mr. Weiner, who successfully defended a client recently under the law."

    I think that would be a good process (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by ruffian on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:56:49 AM EST
    If we have to have a Stand Your Ground law, I am all for judicial hearings to decide the merits of the Stand Your Ground defense, rather than police.

    If the judge ends the proceeding there, at least the arguments would have been heard and people can see what a bad law this is. I hope for a repeal - then maybe Trayvon's death will have saved others.


    I guess that explains. . . (none / 0) (#32)
    by RickTaylor on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 01:10:05 PM EST
    why the authorities have been so reluctant to charge Mr. Zimmerman for so long? If the pretrial hearing could result in granting him "immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits," then they wouldn't want to have the pretrial hearing until they'd gathered all the evidence they could. Is that how it works?

    The LAW (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 02:22:27 PM EST
    Already gants him immunity from arrest or prosecution (unless an overwhelming show of evidence is found to allow for an arrest and / or prosecution).