How can we avoid dependence on federal “cleanup” investigations when a civilian has been killed by police? In the aftermath of the cases in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s suggestion that such grand jury investigations be handled by his office rather than local prosecutors deserves serious consideration, former federal prosecutor Faith Gay writes for the Washington Post. She says this reform would take pressure off district attorneys asked to indict members of their own police forces.
Gay says Schneiderman’s idea is not likely to be carried out in most states, as elected local prosecutors make strong legal, policy and fiscal arguments for maintaining control of the grand jury process. She suggests a “better answer”–that “a powerful and trusted witness should be positioned behind those closed doors to observe the prosecutor's presentation to the grand jurors.” States wouldn't have to overhaul their grand jury systems to accomplish this. A state could easily require its governor or state bar association to appoint a highly qualified monitor to observe and report on the grand jury investigation in every police death case, Gay says. The monitor could be chosen from a pool of lawyers who have experience as both prosecutors and defense counsel and who have demonstrated a deep commitment to fairness.