Chava Shapiro and James Clark: It’s Time to Abolish Grand Juries Once and for All

Volunteer Rojauna McPherson looks at a table full of pamphlets after being trained as a new volunteer at one of the “Stop Cop City” movement headquarters, Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Atlanta, Ga. (Brynn Anderson / AP)

The Nation | September 27, 2023

Whether they’re targeting Donald Trump or Cop City protesters, grand juries are an irredeemable and unaccountable tool of state prosecutorial power.

On August 29, a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., issued an indictment against 61 alleged participants in the movement to defend Atlanta’s Welaunee Forest and stop the building of the police training facility now known around the world as Cop City. The indictment charges them under Georgia’s RICO law with a broad “racketeering conspiracy” to prevent the destruction of the forest. 

Barely two weeks earlier, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, the exact same grand jury issued a much more high-profile RICO indictment against former president Donald Trump and his associates for their attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

There is much that can be said about the same grand jury issuing these two indictments targeting disparate political tendencies. Some might be tempted to see it as an example of equal justice meted out by an impartial legal system. Some might also be tempted to cheer at the use of the grand jury to prosecute Trump. But what the indictments really show is that the grand jury process in the modern US criminal legal system is bankrupt, and that grand juries should be abolished.

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