Jury of Babel—The Diverse Grand Jury in Action
January 06, 2009
While we often discuss how
race contribute to crime, we only rarely consider
their effect on our system of criminal justice.
But see the
work of the equally anonymous "Anonymous
Attorney" on VDARE.com] It is a
question that did not occur to me until recently when I
had the opportunity to serve on an American grand jury.
The grand jury is one of
least understood features of our legal system—even
though the practice
dates back to medieval
despite the popularity of the American courtroom drama,
I know of not a single
television show that has ever depicted a grand jury
Briefly, a typical grand jury
consists of 16 to 23 citizens who serve for three hours
a day over several weeks. Their civic duty is to indict
capital crimes and
felonies, and basically act as a check on the
enormous power of the government to
prosecute its citizens.
Here`s how it works: A
prosecutor enters the grand jury room and informs
the jurors of the indictments he seeks against an
accused person. He then calls in witnesses one-by-one
and questions them about the alleged crime. (This can
include the defendant, if he chooses to testify).
Individual jurors are then
allowed to submit questions to the prosecutor who
repeats them aloud for the witness. When the entire
testimony is over, the prosecutor informs the jurors of
how the law applies to the case, then leaves the room.
The grand jurors deliberate in secret, then vote.
A grand jury is distinct from
a trial jury in that it only
individuals with crimes. Once indicted, the defendant
then receives a jury trial to determine his guilt or
innocence…at least in theory.
"Remember, this is not a trial,"
prosecutors kept reminding us. That idea lets grand
jurors off the hook quite a bit. It gives jurors the
"Well, this isn`t a conviction, just a charge, so the
rest gets sorted out during the trial."
The prosecutors never told us
that most grand jury indictments actually end in a
plea bargain—and this includes 95% of federal
indictments. A grand jury trial, therefore, is the
closest thing many defendants will ever have to a
genuine jury trial.
There is no judge present
during grand jury proceedings, and the prosecutor
remains the sole legal authority for the jurors. In
fact, in the federal grand jury, a defendant
cannot even have an attorney present while
state grand juries, however, do allow defendants to
testify with an attorney present and even to call
witnesses to testify on their behalf. But on both the
state and federal level, the defense cannot cross
examine witnesses. Worse, all grand jury proceedings
deny a defendant his constitutional right to face his
As for the composition of the
grand jury, the
standard policy of most court jurisdictions is to
make grand juries as ethnically diverse as possible.
In other words, grand jury
service is a form of
forced integration. The vast majority of people have
never spent a day, never mind several weeks,
closely cooperating with people of different races.
But I served on a jury that consisted of a handful of
whites like myself, and a mixture of blacks, Hispanics,
and Asians, including several immigrants—a modern day
jury of my
The damage immigration has
done to our justice system is most obvious during
witness testimony. We heard immigrant witnesses testify
in several languages, including
The difficulty is that it is
nearly impossible to gauge the authenticity of a witness
when he testifies through a court-certified
like relying on a story second-hand. Even the
prosecutors seemed to struggle with this problem.
When it`s the grand jurors`
opportunity to question an immigrant witness, we had to
whisper our question to the prosecutor, who then
repeated the question aloud to the interpreter. The
interpreter then translated the question for the
witness, who then answered back in his
native language. The interpreter then translates the
defendant`s response back into English for the grand
Sound confusing? It was. And
boring, very boring.
It is obviously important to
pay attention during court testimony because someone`s
liberty is at stake. But most every juror yawns through
testimony translated by an interpreter. One black juror
never looked up from his Gameboy every time an immigrant
witness testified through an interpreter.
Things didn`t get much better
during jury deliberations, because some of the grand
jurors spoke such poor English. Many of us simply could
not understand some of the arguments the immigrant
jurors were trying to make.
They also demonstrated a poor
grasp of the American legal system. For example, I had
to explain the concepts of
until proven guilty" and
of proof" to one Latino woman several times. But
she was flummoxed by the difference between
and "beyond a
"What do you mean, probable?"
the woman kept saying.
"He looks guilty
Don`t get me wrong. The
immigrant jurors all seemed like nice people. But even
when I did understand them, it was often clear that they
did not really comprehend the facts of the case they had
just heard. One
Chinese juror never said a single word during the
entire grand jury session. He also resisted my attempts
to engage him in conversation so I was never able to
On the other hand, my
experience with American black jurors was notably
positive. Perhaps surprisingly. I was aware of the
notorious reluctance of
black jurors to
convict black defendants, no matter the strength of
the case, and even if the arresting officer is black.
So, during deliberations, whenever any black juror began
to wring his hands over
racial profiling, I immediately forced him to defend
"Have you ever been pulled over by a
black officer? What then was his motive?"
"Does it surprise you that when someone dresses like a
hoodlum that the police might suspect him of being
The black jurors were stunned
to see a white person force them to defend their
racial talking points. But did this make them
dislike me? At first, perhaps. But I eventually seemed
to develop a great rapport with them, and a few of us
even went out for drinks one night after jury duty (We
still keep in touch).
found that when he
speaks to audiences about
racial differences in IQ, that the black audience
members are often much more open to the subject than
people give them credit for. One reason for their
speak honestly to them. Many blacks take such racial
candor as a sign of respect, which it is. Blacks have no
respect for whites who ingratiate themselves to them,
which they view as a form of weakness, quite rightly.
The other whites in the room,
having seen my racial self-assurance, felt more
confident to vote and deliberate as they honestly saw
The black jurors also had a
natural distrust of
law enforcement that I came to see as not entirely
unhealthy. They were willing to indict when guilt was
glaringly obvious, but in most cases the prosecutor had
to work extra hard to persuade them. We had several
cases that were simply absurd and that we rightly
dismissed. During those deliberations, the black jurors
were my most reliable allies.
In contrast, the Hispanic
jurors often seemed to gain satisfaction from indicting,
even if the defendants were Hispanic (which they often
were). They also had
little appreciation for civil liberties.
For example, a grand jury
hears a lot of "Buy
& Bust" cases. A Buy & Bust occurs when an
undercover police officer poses as a drug buyer. The
officer approaches a drug dealer on the street,
negotiates a sale, and then arrests him afterwards.
I once asked a prosecutor why
this practice did not qualify as entrapment (as Paul
has argued). But one Hispanic juror could not
understand my concern for civil liberties.
"The guy is guilty",
he said to me during deliberations.
"Who cares how
they got him?"
Still, despite such
constitutional obtusity, it was obvious that grand jury
service was a healthy assimilative experience for these
immigrant jurors. It gave them the genuine feeling of
being a citizen—in short, of being an American.
Surely this kind of civic
participation would be impossible in their home
countries. I asked one Mexican juror how
justice works in Mexico.
"Trial by judge, Man",
he told me, shaking his head.
"If the judge
doesn`t like you, you go to jail".
In the end, I think most
everyone found grand jury duty to be a positive
experience. Many jurors had difficulty saying goodbye to
each other on our final day of service.
However, the experience still
left me discouraged, and for one simple reason.
I keep wondering what would
happen to me if by chance I ever found myself on the
witness stand—pleading my case before a group of people
so very unlike myself. Would they even understand me? Or
worse, would some of the jurors be
predisposed against me because of
This, remember, is a problem
that will only get worse.
Obama Amnesty passes during the next four years, we
could have several million foreign-born citizens added
to the jury pool.
Our right to a trial by an
impartial jury of our peers may then be irrevocably
Anonymous Grand Juror.