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Thursday, December 22, 2005

States That Allow Citizens To Present Evidence Of Crimes To Grand Jury.

Some states allow citizens to contact grand juries by statute, but leave it to the discretion of the judge to allow the citizen to appear before the grand jury. . See, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-5-204(4)(l) ("Any person may approach the prosecuting attorney or the grand jury and request . . . to appear before a grand jury. . . . The court may permit the person to testify or appear before the grand jury, if the court finds that such testimony or appearance would serve the interests of justice."); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 1256 ("Evidence relating to offenses cognizable by the court may be offered to the grand jury by the Attorney General, the district attorney, the assistant district attorney and, at the discretion of the presiding justice, by such other persons as said presiding justice may permit."); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1410.01 ("Any person may approach the prosecuting attorney or the grand jury and request . . . to appear before a grand jury. . . . The court may permit the person to testify or appear before the grand jury if the court finds that such testimony or appearance would serve the interests of justice."); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-626(d) ("Any person not called as a witness who desires to testify before the grand jury concerning a criminal matter . . . must apply to the district attorney or to a superior court judge. The judge or the district attorney in his discretion may call the witness to appear before the grand jury.")Other state statutes explicitly allow citizens to present evidence of crimes to a grand jury. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-12-104(a) ("Any person having knowledge or proof of the commission of a public offense triable or indictable in the county may testify before the grand jury."); Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 20.09 ("The grand jury shall inquire into all offenses liable to indictment of which any member may have knowledge, or of which they shall be informed by the attorney representing the State, or any other credible person.").West Virginia is unique because a citizen's right to approach a grand jury and present evidence of an offense is a constitutional right. State ex rel. Miller v. Smith, 285 S.E. 2d 500 (W. Va. 1981); W. Va. Const. art. III, 17 states "the courts of this State shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him, in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law; and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay." The Supreme Court of West Virginia stated the following in justifying this right:To fulfill its functions of protecting individual citizens and providing them with a forum for bringing complaints within the criminal justice system, the grand jury must be open to the public for the independent presentation of evidence before it. [Thus], ... any person may go to the grand jury to present a complaint to it. Id. at 504-05.Other states permit citizens to contact grand juries by operation of common law. See, e.g., King v. Second Nat'l Bank & Trust Co., 234 Ala. 106, 173 So. 498, 499 (Ala. 1937) ("Public policy demands that the citizen, without hazard to himself, may freely bring before the grand jury the fact that a crime has been committed, request an investigation, and furnish such information as he has in aid of the investigation. In this the citizen is not a prosecutor."); In re Lester, 77 Ga. 143, 1886 WL 1476, at 3 (Ga. 1886) (holding that "any citizen" can prosecute offenses or "give information of the fact to the grand jury"); State v. Stewart, 45 La. Ann. 1164, 14 So. 143, 145 (La. 1893) ("The leading state witness went without summons or request before the grand jury, and gave his own version of the case against defendant, and instituted this prosecution. The witness had the undoubted right to go before the grand jury voluntarily, and disclose his knowledge of the case."); In re Petition of Thomas, 434 A.2d 503, 507 (Me. 1981) (explaining limited codification of common law right of grand jury access); Piracci v. State, 207 Md. 499, 115 A.2d 262, 268 (Md. 1955) ("Any citizen who claims to have knowledge tending to show the commission of crimes has a right to ask permission to appear before the grand jury ….the citizen should first exhaust his remedy before the magistrate and State's Attorney . . . ." (citing Brack v. Wells, 184 Md. 86, 40 A.2d 319, 321-24 (Md. 1944))); Hott v. Yarborough, 112 Tex. 179, 245 S.W. 676 (Tex. Comm'n App. 1922) ("It is unquestionably the right, if not, in fact, the duty, of every one who has knowledge of the commission of a criminal offense . . . to call to the attention of the grand jury the facts within his knowledge . . . ."); State ex rel. Miller v. Smith, 168 W. Va. 745, 285 S.E.2d 500, 504-05 (W. Va. 1981) ("By application to the circuit judge, whose duty is to insure access to the grand jury, any person may go to the grand jury to present a complaint to it. This principle of approachability lies in the foundation of the very concept of a grand jury."); cf. State ex rel. Wild v. Otis, 257 N.W.2d 361, 364 (Minn. 1977) ("While a citizen does not have a right to appear before the grand jury, he is free to attempt to get the grand jury to take action, and under [Minnesota court rules], the grand jury can permit an aggrieve citizen to appear as a witness for this purpose."), cert. denied sub nom. Wild v. Otis, 434 U.S. 1003, 98 S. Ct. 707, 54 L. Ed. 2d 746 (1978).

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