Lone defendant says ‘no,’ puts system in tizzy

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Hamilton County's new justice building and old jail, background, are seen by a grand jury as needing more efficiency, to better move along minor defendants.

Hamilton County’s new justice building and old jail, background, are seen by a grand jury as needing more efficiency, to better move along minor defendants. But the constitution makes it troubling and difficult for accusations to be quickly processed, and courts and the legal profession have found ways around its requirements.

A petty criminal defendant cited in a report by a Tennessee grand jury shows how an individual can tie up a judicial industrial complex that grinds down the poor and causes a once-free citizenry to live in fear.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM

The unnamed man described in an Hamilton County concurrent grand jury report is like the single protester in Tiananmen Square in China who stood before a column of T-54 tanks and momentarily stopped them by the force of moral courage during the 1989 protests. In Chattanooga, the defendant demanded his right to be indicted — much to the chagrin of a system in which people routinely plead guilty.

The 15-member panel proposes a virtual grand jury in which misdemeanor cases are reviewed quickly and processed apart from deputies, cops and authorities’ having to be present in their chamber. The concurrent grand jury reviewed 480 cases heard by the main grand jury. Grand juries are that part of democratic government whose primary job is to screen accusations against citizens to make sure they have enough probable cause within them to warrant an actual criminal trial.

The Hamilton County investigatory grand jury proposes an online or digital system that makes the legal machinery grind onward in even higher gear.

The lone dissenter in Hamilton County

The man in question is charged with violating the seat belt law that regulates the actions of all travelers who by the licensing process become operators of motor vehicles in commerce. His resistance frustrates the grand jurors on the panel.

An example was a case in which a defendant obviously refused to plead guilty to a charge in Sessions Court, for whatever reason, and by rule the case was bound over to the Grand Jury. This required the arresting officer, in this case a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, to testify before the Grand Jury. The charge — violation of the seatbelt law.

The report complains that “a highway patrol officer was taken off duty to appear before the grand jury for less than one minute. In total, more than 17 persons were involved in the testimony directly, and many more indirectly. This was an expensive proposition *** at great expense to the tax payer.”

The problem caused by a single individual standing up and saying “no” —defending his rights — suggests how a few individuals demanding an indictment could cause the system to seize up. If people stand on their rights to be indicted, and refuse to dicker with the district attorney in a sessions court and plead guilty, enforcement action against the citizenry would have to be sharply curtailed so that only true crimes would be brought toward trial.

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In other words, if more people stood their ground and forced the legal system to operate as it is supposed to under the constitution, fewer cases would be filed against citizens by law enforcement. To end the long train of police abuse, police killings, police beatings protected by police privilege, people standing up put pressure on the system to reduce the enforcement activity that crowd dockets.

Commercial government aided

A virtual grand jury would have let the officer testify by Skype from his cruiser. He would not have been inconvenienced by the requirement to make a personal appearance.

The concurrent grand jury starts sympathetic to is mission as a defense mechanism of the people as against the state. The group “came to respect the wisdom of our forefathers who developed and implemented the code of common law which prevails in our country” and the group “[stands] in witness to the value this group of lay citizens has as a defense against unsubstantiated claims of law enforcement agents and potential prosecution by the state.”

The grand jury is a citizen bulwark against despotism. Despotism in the Tennessee and in most other states in the union is created by commercial government, the form of government that has replace constitutional government. Commercial government alters constitutional government to benefit the convenience and efficiency of the state. By definition, constitutional government is not efficient, but divided, so that it might not easily allow the state to trample the rights of the people.

The proposal of the concurrent grand jury for a virtual grand jury does nothing to reduce the police state, but to enhance it by reducing the drag imposed upon it by the court system. If people yearn for fewer police abuses and fewer lives damaged by interaction with courts, they should stand their ground, demand an indictment, and force the state to brings its charges and its laws into public scrutiny and review.

Plea bargaining allows prosecutors to escape having to be careful, allows police perjury and acts without probable cause, fails to give laws their due test for constitutionality and encourages defendants to exercise their right to a trial by jury to vindicate their honor.

Though grand juries represent the interests of the people, those in Chattanooga seem to have forgotten that a free people are not policed, and that the court system would prevent policing on its current scale (Chattanooga has 500 cops) if people would avoid inferior courts such as sessions and demand their rights to be respected by the grand jury review and indictment process.

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