In an effort to counter the recent surge of civil rights violations committed by law enforcement officers against non-resisting arrestees, Georgia lawmakers recently drafted and approved a new law, which went into effect July 1, 2016. House Bill 941 attempts to ensure that grand jury investigations into the use of deadly force by police officers are conducted fairly and impartially. It is hoped that these newly drafted laws will help improve transparency and restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Grand Jury Investigation Reform
Prior to the passage of House Bill 941, police officers who were under investigation for using excessive force were permitted to be present in the grand jury room during the proceedings. At the conclusion of the meeting, the officers were then permitted to make a statement and were not subject to questioning. Over time, this system began to raise concerns that grand juries were being manipulated, inspiring Georgia lawmakers to reevaluate grand jury proceedings involving investigations into police officer misconduct.
The new law primarily addressed these concerns by prohibiting officers under investigation from remaining in the grand jury room during the entirety of the proceedings. Additionally, while officers still retain the right to make a statement at the conclusion of the investigation, they are now subject to questioning and cross-examination by the grand jury and the district attorney. Furthermore, the district attorney is permitted to call rebuttal witnesses at the conclusion of the officer’s testimony if it is deemed necessary.
House Bill 941 also attempts to increase transparency into the criminal justice system by allowing for easier access to court records. For example, the new law requires court reporters to create a written record of any criminal grand jury proceedings where an officer’s actions are under investigation. Additionally, if the jury does not approve an indictment, it must still prepare a report summarizing the evidence and the findings. This document must be published in open court and subsequently filed with the clerk.
Copies of the jury’s report as well as transcripts of any testimony given during the proceedings must be made available to the public within six months of the conclusion of the investigation. There is an exception, however, as the district attorney can request that the court redact any part of the evidence or transcript that contains information protected by statutory privilege or the names of the grand jurors.
Atlanta, Georgia Civil Rights Attorney
The use of deadly force by police officers can have devastating consequences for victims and their families. Injuries can range in seriousness from cuts and bruises to broken bones and head trauma. Physical recovery can take months or even years and require expensive medical care, including emergency treatment, prescription medications, and therapy. Fortunately, those who have been unfairly injured by a police officer may be able to obtain compensation for the injuries they suffered. If your civil rights were violated, please contact Ford Law at 404-373-9881 or complete an online contact form to schedule an initial consultation.