Analysis

The jury is still out on what actually happened with the Harris County grand jury

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Last month, Center for Medical Progress founder, David Daleiden, was indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas along with his colleague Sandra Merritt. The two were instrumental in uncovering Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and trafficking of baby body parts, especially at Planned Parenthood of Houston, which is Planned Parenthood’s affiliate in Harris County.

Under instruction from the pro-life Lieutenant Governor of Texas, the Harris County District Attorney’s office began a months long investigation into the actions of Planned Parenthood and, in the end, a grand jury indicted the heroic whistle blowers rather than the original subject of the investigation. While the media would have you believe that the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of all wrongdoing, it has been reported that the grand jury never even voted on Planned Parenthood’s case. Despite the media exonerating Planned Parenthood, there are still many unknowns as to what happened in that grand jury room.

After a week of hearing pro-abortion rhetoric, Americans everywhere would believe that a grand jury is a panel of experienced crime investigators rather than what the grand jury actually is: a check and balance in the judicial system. The lack of knowledge about what a grand jury actually is plays perfectly into Planned Parenthood’s media strategy. After all, anything with “grand” in its name has to be important, right? Wrong. In reality, the grand jury stage of a criminal proceeding is one of the beginning steps and the case that is presented to a grand jury is completely one-sided.

When prosecutors investigate a possible crime, they present their evidence to a jury of ordinary citizens who have been called to serve jury duty in the same vein as the (more commonly known) petit jury that you see in criminal trials. However, rather than determining guilt of innocence, a grand jury’s only task is to vote on whether there is enough probable cause to move forward with the criminal case. The case that the grand jury hears is only presented by the prosecutor and involves testimony from only the prosecutor’s witnesses. A common joke in the legal profession is that “a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if she wanted to.”

The defendant (in this case, Daleiden and Merritt) has no right to present his/her side of the story to the grand jury. Therefore, because of the one-sided nature of the presentation, the grand jury almost always votes the way the prosecutor recommends. Not only that, but, if a prosecutor cannot get a grand jury to indict on the first go around, they have the power to go back and strengthen their case and re-present their case until they get the indictment that they so desire. So, as you can see, a grand jury is a routine process and a primary tool of the prosecutor rather than a team of super sleuths who can decipher guilt or innocence at every turn.

There are many things that are still unknown in this case. Harris County District Attorney, Devon Anderson, an alleged pro-life Christian, told us that the grand jury simply did not vote to indict Planned Parenthood. Rather, as she claims, the evidence in the case led them in a different direction to indict Daleiden and Merritt. That is a statement full of ambiguities. Did the prosecutor even present the Planned Parenthood case to the grand jury? The AP has reported that the jury never took a vote on Planned Parenthood. Did the prosecutor even give the grand jury a chance to vote to indict Planned Parenthood officials or, maybe, the prosecutor redirected the grand jury to focus on Daleiden and Merritt instead? It seems as if Anderson is using the grand jury as a scapegoat for what, in actuality, falls within her prosecutorial discretion. With so many ambiguities, it is presumptuous of the media to exonerate Planned Parenthood when the grand jury never rendered a verdict.

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