- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California state Senate is advancing legislation to end the use of grand juries to investigate police shootings or cases of alleged excessive force by police.

The move comes after high-profile cases nationwide in which grand juries decided not to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers who killed unarmed black men.

The secret nature of grand jury deliberations often seems unfair, particularly when the outcome seems to conflict with witness accounts or videotaped evidence, said Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.

Recent cases of Latino and black men being killed by police has been alarming and “growing at a sickening pace,” added Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.

“Quite frankly, no one knows what’s happening,” de Leon said of the grand jury process.

Grand juries are composed of citizens who weigh evidence presented by prosecutors behind closed doors. Mitchell said prosecutors can instead rely on public preliminary hearings before judges, who determine if there is enough evidence to support criminal charges.

Senators approved her bill, SB227, with a 23-12 vote Thursday, sending it to the Assembly.

Several Republicans spoke against the measure.

“Are we fixing something that’s broke, or are we just responding to emotion?” asked Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, suggested grand juries cut down on cozy relationships between a sheriff and district attorney.


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