“Bronx Grand Jury Delivers Tough Justice on Murder, Sex Attacks and Firearms Cases”
For one month, an overwhelming sense of duty and purpose pervaded the daily lives of several citizens of Bronx County as they joined forces to perform one of the most essential civic duties in the criminal justice system. This group of twenty-three citizens formed part of the grand jury that listened to criminal cases in the South Bronx in the “People of New York State v.” trials. Its task was rigorous and challenging, but each member demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice.
The members of the grand jury came from different backgrounds, including teachers, tech workers, and civil servants, but, without exception, they realized that people’s lives were on the line. For eight hours a day, overheated and in a windowless room, they listened to Assistant District Attorneys’ presentations of the cases they were prosecuting. The cases ranged from homicide, sex trafficking, burglary, assault, and, most frequently, illegal gun charges, which dominated the hearings.
The presentation of cases was rigorous and detailed, and the burden of assessing whether the prosecutors had enough evidence to bring a case to trial rested entirely on the grand jurors. They were not tasked with judging the guilt or innocence of the accused, but they had to weigh the evidence presented and determine whether it justified pressing charges. Given the gravity of their decisions, the grand jury was a pretty tough crowd, and the majority showed deep respect for the work of the police officers and detectives who risked their lives daily.
Despite the grand jurors’ critical role in the criminal justice system, they operate in relative obscurity, and their work is surprisingly unknown. As a result, society has failed to appreciate the sense of duty and purpose that motivates the jurors. Further, the grand jurors must maintain strict confidentiality to protect the identities of victims and witnesses who risk their lives to give evidence.
The grand jury process is a legal tradition that goes back to 1215 in England, and it is still an indispensable part of the US Constitution and the New York State Constitution. In New York State, no one can face trial for a felony unless he or she has first been indicted by a grand jury. Thus, grand juries wield immense power in the criminal justice system, and every decision they make has far-reaching consequences for both victims and perpetrators.
In a world where justice is frequently lacking, the role of the grand jury cannot be overstated. The power to determine whether or not a case goes to trial rests entirely on the hands of a group of citizens who dedicate themselves to upholding the law and holding criminals accountable. It is a difficult task, but the grand jurors of Bronx County displayed unwavering determination and a deep sense of responsibility as they fulfilled their civic duty.