January 11, 2017
Sacramento, CA - Today, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that District Attorney's Offices throughout California are not barred from using the grand jury to investigate officer involved shootings. This ruling found that Senate Bill 227, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in August 2015, was unconstitutional. The Court noted that, "The Legislature does not have the power to enact a statute that limits the constitutional power of a criminal grand jury..."
Every day, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Unfortunately, their job has been getting more and more difficult over the last few years. The anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has been fueled by some misguided politicians, by special interests groups, and by false news stories.
In 2015, the California Legislature bought into a false news story regarding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the alleged claim that he was killed while holding up his hands and uttering "hands up don't shoot." By the time of the California Legislature's consideration and passage SB 227, the narrative of "hands up don't shoot" had already been exposed as a fraud by the United States DOJ report led by then Attorney General Eric Holder. Nevertheless, the false narrative was adopted and misused by the California Legislature to claim that the grand jury process is a flawed mechanism to investigate use of force cases.
Police Officers' jobs are incredibly difficult and officer involved shootings are never easy to investigate. But, occasionally, these very difficult cases need to be investigated by a grand jury because the public is entitled to a comprehensive, professional and transparent investigation into all potential criminal activity. Today, the 3rd District Court of Appeal struck down an unconstitutional law that prohibited these essential grand jury investigations.
Vern Pierson stated, "The Grand Jury, and the role of the Attorney General and District Attorney, are a vital part of the Constitutional fabric which makes up our justice system. The California Legislature's unconstitutional passage of SB 227 attempted to chip away at the rights and powers contained within the Constitution. It is for these reasons that our office, with assistance from prosecutors from San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura, Yolo, and the California District Attorneys Association, challenged this new law which impacted our efforts to impanel a criminal grand jury regarding an officer involved shooting."