Protect People From False Indictments! Bring Grand Juries Into the 21st Century.

It's been said that a good prosecutor can convince a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." Too often, though, it's innocent defendants and witnesses whose lunch is eaten.

Grand juries are a centuries-old concept intended to restrain overzealous prosecutors. But the institution no longer meaningfully plays that role. Grand jury decisions heavily tilt toward the prosecution. And if a grand jury does decline to indict when a prosecutor wants it, the government just convenes another one, and if necessary, another, until they get the outcome they desire.

How does this happen? No one knows – everything that happens in that grand jury room is a secret, even from an accused person's lawyer.

That's why bipartisan reform legislation (SB 1424) has been filed this year by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), which would allow defendants, witnesses and victims access to a lawyer during grand jury proceedings and make them record or transcribe what goes on in these until-now secret sessions.

In the last several years, grand juries have faced bipartisan criticism. From men exonerated from death row to former Governor Rick Perry, to groups as liberal as the ACLU and conservative bastions like the Texas Public Policy Foundation or the Heritage Foundation.

It's time we bring the Texas grand jury system into the 21st century!

Tell your senator to support SB 1424 to make grand juries transparent and accountable and protect defendants from false indictments.
Subject: Support Sen. Dawn Buckingham's SB 1424

Dear [Decisionmaker],

The Grand Jury system seems broken. I'm asking you to support Sen. Dawn Buckingham's SB 1424 to fix it.

In Waco, prosecutors somehow could secure only three indictments out of dozens of Baylor football players accused of rape. For most of them, being mocked by the Rice Owl marching band was the worst punishment they received. Meanwhile, after the Twin Peaks shootings in Waco, the same prosecutors secured dozens of indictments against people who were completely uninvolved in the crimes, just for being there.

Similarly, whether or not one is a fan of former Gov. Rick Perry, it was wrong for Travis County prosecutors to try to use an indictment to punish him for vetoing part of their budget. Instead of providing a check on overzealous prosecutors, the grand jury in that case was little more than a stage prop for a partisan attack.

In some cases, this can lead to tragic injustices. In Houston, Alfred Dwayne Brown was ultimately exonerated from death row after it was revealed that a key alibi witness had been threatened and intimidated during the Grand Jury process to the point that she declined to testify. When that happens, it's a double catastrophe. Not only is an innocent person punished, the real murderer remains free!

That's why Sen. Buckingham has filed SB 1424, which would allow defendants, witnesses and victims access to a lawyer during grand jury proceedings and make them record or trancribe what goes on in these until-now secret sessions. Please support SB 1424 and consider signing on as a coauthor. It's important to me that the Legislature provide accountability and transparency to this improtant but outdated process.

[Your Comment]

Thanks for your consideration,

[Your Name]
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