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Rodney King and the Decriminalization of Police Brutality in America: Direct and Judicial Access to the Grand Jury as Remedies for Victims of Police Brutality When the Prosecutor Declines to Prosecute

NCJ Number
Maryland Law Review Volume: 53 Issue: 2 Dated: (1994) Pages: 271-357
P L Davis
Date Published
87 pages
This article maintains that police brutality, particularly that directed against minorities, has been de facto decriminalized in the U.S. through the influential role of police in an organized society, the desensitization of the public and the judicial system to police criminal behavior, the symbiotic relationship between prosecutors and police, the growth of the legal doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, and the decreasing independence of the grand jury.
Using the Rodney King case as an example, this author argues that the police benefit from a double standard defining criminal behavior, which in turn leads to a cynical attitude toward the police on the part of minorities. This cynicism can result in civil disorder, as was demonstrated by the Los Angeles riots which followed the acquittal of the white police officers accused of beating the black motorist. Because the use of civil lawsuits and civilian review boards have failed to stem police brutality, only the realistic threat of criminal prosecution will have an impact on police misconduct. Citizen access to a grand jury could help correct the current situation, in which nearly all prosecutors will decide against mounting a credible challenge to systemic police brutality. The article describes ways in which citizens can gain access to the grand jury: through case law precedent, through statute, through the impaneling judge as a constitutional right, and at the judge's discretion. 509 notes


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