Oregon May Abandon Grand Juries in Favor of Pre-Trial Hearings
Multnomah County, Oregon will be making a huge shift in how the District Attorney will prosecute cases. According to Conrad Wilson, reporting for Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Multnomah County District Attorney will abandon the traditional Grand Jury proceedings and replace them with preliminary hearings for felony cases. It is a massive shift in how felonies are prosecuted and may have benefits for defendants in Oregon.
Grand Juries have been traditionally convened to determine if charges should be brought against a defendant on behalf of the state. A pool of jurors, selected by a judge, listen to evidence presented by prosecutors and determine if the state has enough reasonable evidence to bring formal charges at trial against an individual. Grand Juries do not hear from the defendant or their defense attorneys during the preceding. Often, prosecutors are given wide latitude to present their evidence and the burden of proof to move charges forward are far more lax than that to secure a conviction in a criminal proceeding.
With the adoption of pre-trial hearings, defendants are in a better position to defend their case. Pre-trial hearings consist of both the prosecutor and defense team to appear before a judge. The prosecution is allowed to present their evidence and the judge makes a determination to move the case forward or not. Conrad Wilson, quoting Lane Borg, executive director of the Metropolitan Public Defenders, wrote, “It’s a presentation before a judge in which the defendant appears, the prosecutor appears,” Borg said. “They present the evidence to the judge and the judge makes a determination about whether there’s sufficient evidence to justify binding the person over to trial.”
This can benefit defendants in different ways but according to legal experts and legislators in Oregon, the greatest benefit will be the added layer or transparency in the criminal justice system. Quoting from Wilson’s article, Multnomah County Judge Nan Waller said, “[Underhill] felt that really if it’s about transparency, preliminary hearings where a defendant is at the hearing, represented by counsel with the opportunity to cross examine any witnesses called to establish probable cause was the most transparent.”
The most important thing to remember, if charged with a crime, is to obtain qualified and experienced legal counsel. While the criminal justice system in Oregon is making steps in a positive direction, the state has the resources and experience to back you into a corner unless you have a legal advocate at your disposal. If you are facing a criminal conviction, it is important to secure the counsel of a reputable Oregon criminal defense attorney. Call Kroll & Johnson today for your free, initial consultation.