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The Importance of Being a Registered Voter By Mark Lampkin

  1. You have a voice in who represents your interests:
  1. Mayor
  2. City council members
  3. County Supervisors
  4. State Representatives
  5. State Senators
  6. U.S. Representatives
  7. U.S. Senators
  8. U.S. President
  1. You may be asked to serve as a Juror
  • How many of you have served on a jury?
  • What was your experience like?
  1. You may qualify to serve on a Grand Jury

What Grand Juries Do:

In theory, grand juries are supposed to make an objective determination of whether there is enough evidence to try a suspect for a crime.

They are supposed to be not just a “sword” to help the government prosecute criminals—but also a “shield” protecting criminal suspects from unjustified criminal charges.

In reality, it doesn’t always work this way. The grand jury hears only one side of the story—the prosecutor’s side. Under these circumstances, there is a real danger that it will function only as a sword, not as a shield—and will vote to bring criminal charges that never should have been brought.

Unlike the juries in criminal or civil trials, which serve only for that one trial, grand juries are often formed to sit for a period of time rather than a particular matter. During this period of time, they may hear a number of indictment cases.

In order to serve on a grand jury, in most states, a person must meet the following requirements:

  1. S/he must be a U.S. citizen;
  2. S/he must be 18 or older;
  3. S/he must have been a resident of the state and of the county for one (1) year immediately prior to being selected as a juror;
  4. S/he must be “in possession of his natural faculties, of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment, and of fair character”; and
  5. S/he must have sufficient knowledge of English

Grand jury proceedings are very different from ordinary criminal trials.

First, a grand jury proceeding is not presided over by a judge. Instead, the prosecutor takes the lead role in running grand jury proceedings, as s/he makes the case that the criminal suspect should be charged with a crime.

Second, unlike criminal court proceedings, grand jury proceedings are closed to the public and are held in secret.

Third—and maybe most strikingly—the proposed defendant is not permitted to be present at grand jury proceedings. In fact, s/he will not even be notified that the proceeding is going on.

If—after weighing all the evidence presented to it—the grand jury believes that the evidence would warrant a criminal conviction of the suspect by a trial jury, it may issue an indictment against the suspect.

The vote of the grand jury does not need to be unanimous for an indictment to be issued.

There’s a line from the musical “Hamilton” that says, You Gotta Be in the Room Where it Happened.

As important as taking down statues of racist Civil War slave owners and removing images from rice and pancake packages…no REAL and Impactful change will happen if we are not present in those rooms – where decisions are made about holding police accountable for harming our brothers and sisters.

Want justice for Breonna Taylor…Ahmaud Arbery…George Floyd?

The next time you receive a summons for jury duty, consider that someone who looks like you NEEDS you to be in that room…for Us to get Justice.

And always remain an active voter and participant in your community!

Peace.