OLBC President Welcomes Chief Justice O'Connor's Response To Grand Jury Reform Calls
Requests meeting to discuss forthcoming legislative and task force action
January 29, 2016
 
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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today sent a letter to Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor welcoming the creation of a grand jury reform task force and requesting her to meet with the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC).


“To that end, we are encouraged by the news this week that you have heeded that public call and convened a task force to study the grand jury process and recommend ways it can be improved,” Reece wrote in the letter, referring to the OLBC’s justice reform agenda announced last year.


O’Connor’s announcement of a grand jury task force follows, not only the OLBC’s and the public’s call to action on justice reform, but also OLBC member Sen. Sandra Williams’ letter to the justice calling for immediate reforms to the grand jury process.


Reece asked O’Connor to sit down with OLBC to discuss “forthcoming grand jury reform legislation that will be a focal point of our Annual Day of Action on Feb. 24.”


You can view the letter in its entirety below:


Chief Justice O’Connor:


The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) since May 2015 has called for a major overhaul of the grand jury process and a move toward a more open and transparent system. Our call to action, and the call of the citizens we represent, requires that the state take meaningful and substantive steps toward improving police-community relations while making changes that will help restore faith in our justice system. To that end, we are encouraged by the news this week that you have heeded that public call and convened a task force to study the grand jury process and recommend ways it can be improved.


The year-long grand jury process that culminated in the decision to bring zero charges against the officers that shot and killed 12 year-old Tamir Rice, and the lack of charges in the police shooting of John Crawford, Jr., underscores our state’s immediate need for action on social and criminal justice reforms – especially as they relate to making the grand jury process more transparent. 


In addition the state’s police-community relations taskforce the OLBC has held community town halls throughout the state, where countless citizens expressed concern and demanded action on criminal justice and grand jury reform. As Sen. Sandra Williams addressed in her letter to you several months ago, many believe the secretive nature of the grand jury deliberations damages the credibility of the judicial system and harms the public’s confidence in the ability of the process to deliver justice.


Senator Sandra Williams, Sen. Edna Brown and I recently attended the National Black Conference of State Legislators where we learned that other states too have recognized the need for reform and have taken the lead in the movement away from secret grand juries. California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a measure to prohibit the use of secret grand juries in cases involving excessive or deadly force by law enforcement, an act that seems fitting for our state to model.


We need to take hold of a moment in time when Americans and Ohioans are crying out for meaningful justice reforms that keep us safe, treat citizens fairly and restore faith and transparency in our justice system.


The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus would like to meet with you in the coming weeks to discuss forthcoming grand jury reform legislation that will be a focal point of our Annual Day of Action on Feb. 24. We thank you for your efforts and look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,


OLBC President and State Rep. Alicia Reece

 
 
 
  
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