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Louisiana Grand Jury - Its Precarious Relationship With the District Attorney

NCJ Number
Southern University Law Review Volume: 6 Dated: (Fall 1979) Pages: 151-173
J Shropshire
Date Published
23 pages
The traditional purposes of the Louisiana grand jury, current abuses of these purposes by the district attorney, and suggestions for grand jury reform are discussed.
Traditionally, the Louisiana grand jury has been considered an arm of the court with the functions of (1) investigating crimes committed within its jurisdiction, (2) identifying persons suspected of having committed offenses and determining whether there is probable cause to charge the person with the offense, and (3) publishing its findings to the court. Grand jury proceedings are not meant to be adversary but rather to provide the accused with the right to an independent determination of probable cause. Since the district attorney has become the fulcrum of Louisiana criminal prosecutions, the grand jury has been relegated to a weak position in the criminal justice system. The grand jury has become only an accuser and the captive of the district attorney, functioning merely as a prosecutorial rubber stamp. While the grand jury should be retained, steps should be taken to strengthen its independence. These steps might include relegating the prosecutor to an advisory role, requiring that the grand jury receive only constitutionally admissible evidence and that the evidence alone constitute probable cause to believe that the accused has committed a crime, and allowing counsel inside the grand jury room. Other reforms could include (1) giving the target of the grand jury investigation the opportunity to testify; (2) making a grand jury subpoena returnable only when the grand jury is sitting and identifying the general subject area of the investigation; and (3) recording all grand jury proceedings (except the jurors' deliberations), making them accessible for pretrial discovery. Ninety-five footnotes are listed.


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