For centuries, grand juries have held some of the criminal justice system’s best-kept secrets. Their private process has come under extraordinary public scrutiny after recent decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed men, the Associated Press reports. Calls for more transparency have sounded in Congress, statehouses and editorial pages, mixed with notes of caution. The debate has “been more exposed in the last three months than ever,” says Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University law professor.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a limited lifting of the grand jury veil when police kill unarmed civilians, and this week a New York City judge will consider whether to release transcripts of a grand jury’s investigation into Eric Garner’s chokehold death. Proposals to replace grand juries with preliminary hearings in open court, at least in some police killing cases, have recently been floated by lawmakers in Washington and Missouri.