STOCKTON (CBS13) – Criminal Grand Juries will no longer hear cases of officer-involved shootings of civilians in California.
The ban, which was signed by the governor Tuesday is drawing both praise and criticism.
The last time Deputy District Attorney, Robert Himmelblau, tried a case before the Grand Jury was 11 years ago. It was after an inmate died at the county jail. Himmelblau said he used the Grand Jury to further the investigation.
“It allows you to bring in civilian witnesses who would otherwise be fearful to testify in public. They could now come forward, testify in secret, and we would have information that we otherwise would not get,” said Himmelblau.
Himmelblau is concerned that the new California law, banning Criminal Grand Juries from hearing police shooting cases will lead to less transparency.
“With the preliminary hearing, more likely than not, there will not be 15, 30, 40 witnesses coming in and testifying,” said Himmelblau.
The Stockton chapter of the NAACP worked with the bill authors to end Grand Juries deciding whether an officer will face charges,
“We have everyday instances where Grand Juries have not worked for black people,” said NAACP president, Bobby Bivens.
Bivens said people chosen for Grand Juries 19 members are too often white, with minorities poorly represented.
“In many communities, we don’t serve on the grand juries, we’re not selected, we’re not recruited, so you often have a Caucasian grand jury looking at a Caucasian officer. Black people are being killed by police officers and yet there are no indictments going on,” said Bivens.
San Joaquin County rarely uses Grand Juries for officer-involved shootings, but Himmelblau said he’s concerned the law may do the opposite in what it’s intended to do.
“Give it time to work and see. Because certainly it hasn’t been working the other way,” said Bivens
The San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office said there may be a loophole in the new law. District attorneys may choose not to name a target in the investigation on officer-involved cases.