BC Expert: Abolish Grand Juries
Kari Hong’s areas of specialization are immigration law, immigration consequences of criminal convictions, criminal law, family law and LGBT rights. Prior to joining Boston College, Hong operated her own firm with offices in California and Oregon where she specialized in immigration and criminal law. Hong has prepared more than 90 actions in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, representing non-citizens in asylum, removal defense, citizenship claims, and criminal defendants accused of white collar crimes, violent felonies and drug-related offenses. She has prepared more than 40 state criminal appeals in the state of California. An expert in family law and marriage, Hong's scholarship focuses on the parent-child relationship with a particular emphasis on how family doctrines are altered or distorted when applied in other legal areas. Hong’s articles have been published in the University of Virginia Law Review and the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal and have been cited by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
In the wake of the controversial decisions reached by grand juries in Ferguson and New York City, some have wondered what exactly is presented to the grand juries, how they arrive at decisions that seem contrary to the evidence publicly presented, and whether they are the best way to pursue justice.
“The problems in Ferguson and the problems in the Eric Garner case show grand juries need to be abolished, they’re being misused,” says Boston College Law Professor Kari Hong, a former defense attorney. “In those cases, there is an appearance the grand juries are being manipulated to reach a certain result to give political cover to the prosecutor’s decision not to charge a crime. The grand juries were meant to check abuses of power but instead they are being used as a tool by the prosecution to serve a political purpose.”
Hong points out half the states do not have grand juries; instead preliminary hearings are used. It’s a system Hong worked with for ten years while a defense attorney in California.
“Preliminary hearings are recorded, the defendant is present, and a judge decides if enough evidence warrants an indictment,” says Hong, who prepared nearly 100 actions in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The standard is low enough so that the majority of charges continue to trial, but the proceedings are transparent and the judge's decision can be appealed, permitting important checks on criminal justice system.
“The grand juries were supposed to be a check on state power. Ferguson and the Eric Garner case show that they are not free of political manipulation, a factor that has been scrubbed from preliminary hearings. It is time for the rest of the states and federal government to remove the secrecy and discretion employed in grand juries that is ripe for misuse and bias. This is particularly compelling when an effective alternative exists.”
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