THOMAS CO., GA (WALB) - The Southern Judicial District Attorney Brad Shealey held a public meeting Thursday night to discuss the judicial process of the Thomasville deputy involved shooting.
According to Shealey, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation puts officer involved shootings as a top priority.
Although, according to him, it takes several months for the GBI to complete its investigation.
Once completed the GBI hands the case off to the district attorney.
The case file is usually several hundred pages with witness testimony, case notes, and video from the incident.
The DA's office will spend time reviewing the file and present all of the evidence to a grand jury.
WHAT MAKES A GRAND JURY
A grand jury is made up of randomly computer generated citizens from the community in which the case is being tried.
The grand jury to match the race, gender, age, and sex make up of the community.
The grand jury has 23 sitting jurors. Around 60 summons are sent out and people are ruled out based on different circumstances to keep it as fair as possible.
In Thomas County, a civil grand jury meets in October and a criminal grand jury meets in April or May.
According to Shealey this is a new policy implemented by Georgia legislators in January.
In this particular case, the case will be presented to the grand jury October 9th.
The civil grand jury can do one of two things, the first is decide that the case is justifiable or say criminal charges are necessary.
In that case, the case would be presented to the criminal grand jury in April/May.
If the case is ruled as justifiable, the grand jury must present their reasoning in open court and the case documents would be made public within six months.
If the case goes to criminal grand jury, they would decide later on in the year whether or not to true bill or no bill an indictment.
A majority is 12 out of 23 jurors.
You have to have 16 minimum jurors show up.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE HEARINGS
During these grand jury hearings, no attorneys are present and only the DA is presenting the case.
During criminal grand jury hearings, if an elected official or police official is facing possible charges or being looked at, they can testify in front of the grand jury but they are not allowed to sit in on the hearing. During that time they can have an attorney present.
Shealey said they do not withhold evidence, all of it is presented.
"The good bad and ugly, its a standard of what's right and wrong and I'm going to do the right thing by presenting all of the facts," said Shealey.
A grand jury has a much lower standard to prove than beyond a reasonable doubt. They just have to decide whether or not to move the case forward if there is enough evidence. They do not decide on guilt.
In an officer involved shooting case, four laws are always presented to the jurors before hearing the evidence.
Usually they are printed on a paper and handed out.
They are as follows:
- Justification, the law on justified use of force
- Use of force, where you must really believe your life or that of a third person is in danger
- Stand your ground, duty to retreat
- Authorization to arrest
POLICY VS LAW
Several questions were asked Thursday night about policy. "Policy is not the law" said Brad Shealey.
If policy is an issue, it could be presented in a case but would have to be relevant.
Grand juries can not indict someone on failure to follow policy, that would fall back on the sheriff's office to handle a policy violation.
Policy is important in civil cases.
CIVIL VS CRIMINAL CASES
The policy violation carries more penalty in a civil case because you can prove wrongful death.
Prior discipline or employment history could be brought up, again if it's relevant to the case.
Shealey said usually a person's criminal history does not get brought up.
According to him, criminal record is not relevant to what happened on a particular day with a particular event.
Shealey said before the January change, an officer had to be indicted of a charge formally and then the jury would no bill or true bill it.
So even if someone didn't do anything wrong and it's clear as day, they would still have to charge them first to put it in front of a grand jury.
This new civil jury eliminates that.
WHAT DOES A CIVIL GRAND JURY DO?
Civil grand jury has nothing to do with a civil case.
In this case the family could file a wrongful death suit, that can be done tomorrow or a year from now but that civil case does not have any relation to the criminal case.
That civil case is not decided by a civil grand jury.
The case will be presented to the grand jury on a special date where they don't have to hear any other cases, but still within the month time frame that they hear cases.
This will give them as long as they need to review the evidence and make sure they are not tired.
The DA does have the ability to make a decision on the case by law (unless 8 jurors say they want to investigate the case), but he has a policy that every officer involved shooting is to be decided by a grand jury no matter what.
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