New York's top judge is calling for changes to the state's grand-jury process, reports the Wall Street Journal. Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, proposed legislation that would make proceedings more open to the public and have judges preside over deliberations for police-involved homicides and serious assaults. In his State of the Judiciary speech, Lippman cited “the crisis emanating from deadly police-civilian encounters” and public distrust of the grand-jury process as reasons for his proposal.
“The grand jury is a medieval institution, and we've got to modernize it,” he told the Journal. “People think it's not a fair process, and certainly many communities feel that way.” In December, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, who died last summer after being held in an apparent police chokehold during an arrest attempt. “Why not have a robust judicial presence?” supervising grand juries, Lippman told the newspaper. “Why not somebody who is going to promote gravitas and confidence?”