Grand Jury Reform

#1 Way to end Mass Incarceration

By: Dennis Burnett

The enclosed story comes as advocacy for Criminal Justice Reform. Specifically, the Indictment and Grand Jury process, the process that initiates prosecutions and inevitably leads to mass incarceration.  A process hidden in secrecy, which government prosecutors have complete Carte Blanche.  Prosecutors power over the Grand Jury ensures that anyone, virtually anywhere, for any reason, can become a target of an indictment.  Many lawyers, judges, and scholars have expressed skepticism concerning the prosecutors power over the Grand Jury.

A Chief Judge (Judge Sol Wachtler) once publicly stated a Grand Jury would indict a “Ham Sandwich” if asked to do so by the prosecutor.


The Grand Jury goes unchecked by any governmental agency and there is no judge in place to monitor the Grand Jury proceeding.  Defense attorneys are not allowed in the Grand Jury room and transcripts are rarely made available to defendants.  A defendant has limited ability to challenge or inquire into the propriety of a Grand Jury determinations, even if that determination is based on incompetent, irrelevant, or unconstitutionally obtained evidence.  Prosecutors are under no legal duty to present evidence in their possession to the Grand Jury which negates guilt or probable cause.


The Grand Jury was originally designed as a fair method for instituting criminal charges and to serve as a protector of the people against unfounded criminal prosecutions, a defense against arbitrary and oppressive Government action.  Today, this is no longer the case.  Prosecutors now use the Grand Jury as a pawn in a technical game to indict, overcharge, and convict.  Today’s Federal Grand Juries fail to provide any resistance to the government, and serve as a machine of mass incarceration, government expansion, and caprice.  Instead of obstructing and opposing the over-reach of government prosecutors, the secrecy of the Grand Jury provide prosecutors with their cover for misconduct and perjury on a massive scale, and a means to abuse, threaten, and intimidate the American people.  Prosecutors now effectively use the Grand Jury as a arm of the prosecution, a social and political weapon, a weapon of mass destruction.


How can a Grand Jury perform its mission, to clear the innocent and protect the American people against arbitrary and oppressive government action when a prosecutor has no legal duty to present exculpatory evidence i their possession to the Grand Jury?  With no system in place to monitor prosecutors, how can the Grand Jury proceeding be considered fair?  Prosecutors employ tactics of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, overcharging, bribery, and terror to obtain indictments and seek convictions.  Stopping the growth of the industrial complex and mass incarceration has to start at the root of the problem, not the result.  The Grand Jury process needs to be reformed and protections need to be added to limit prosecutor’s power and abuse over the Grand Jury, and to hold them accountable for their actions.


This letter and story is about exposing the corruption of the Grand Jury to the public and ending mass incarceration.  Reforming the Grand Jury will protect the innocent, reduce wrongful convictions, deter overcharging and over-sentencing, and dramatically help end mass incarceration.  If a statistical analysis and an investigation into the Grand Jury’s practice and procedures were to take place, Grand Jury Reform would be inevitable.