Frm. Prosecutor Weighs in on Jackson Case MJEOL Bullet #104 Former prosecutor Robert Tanenbaum appeared on Crier Live (March 12) to discuss the new information in the Jackson case. He calls what current district attorney Tom Sneddon has done, by convening a grand jury, backwards. He also says the prior inconsistent statements from the accusing family will have to be presented to those grand jurors in order to make a sound decision about whether to hand down an indictment against Jackson. He also correctly mentions that a grand jury indictment is proof of nothing other than being a means by which the prosecution can bring the case to trial (see transcript). When asked about the new revelations about this case Tanenbaum calls the alleged evidence suspect:
we need that thing called evidence. And that thing called evidence is somewhat suspect as it presently exists on the record right now. That is to say you have a year ago the people closest to the alleged victim saying exactly 180 degree different from what we are led to believe that the district attorney claims they say.
Under California law, the prosecutor is obligated to present such exculpatory evidence, like their prior statements to authorities, to the grand jury. Tanenbaum says
theyre gonna have to present to the grand jury all that exculpatory material which is very different, by the way, from what we were led to believe. And that exculpatory materialthose statements made by the parents and siblings and uh brothers [sic] of the victim are not just a conclusory report that was filed by perhaps some lazy bureaucrat. But these are statements of people who are claiming that theyre eye witnesses saying nothing happened that was wrong.
Tanenbaum tells Crier that the DA will have to use the grand jury as a gauge or focus group for his case. He also says that the prosecution will need some very strong evidence to explain why the accusing family flipped their stories once civil attorneys, like Larry Feldman, were brought in the picture:
And the DA better have some very independent corroboration to explain why these very same witnesses stated to the LA people [DCFS] something very contrary to what the case is all about now according to the DA in Santa Barbara.
Crier asked a question that many people would like to know the answer to. She asks if it was unusual to convene a grand jury after criminal charges have already been filed in a case. Tanenbaum replies:
Well its sorta backwards. You want, in the ordinary course we have a professional officeyou want to avoid the filing of criminal charges prematurely. And the way to do that where you have a complex case, where you have a high profile person you should proceed by way of investigation through the grand jury. Its the cleanest most professional efficient way to do it. You avoid all this extraneous publicity, the media attention and all the other people that wanna participate that drags it out endlessly and needlessly.
Tanenbaum says that the prosecution should have convened a grand jury BEFORE even arresting Jackson to make sure that everything is on the up and up:
So what they should have done, clearly in Santa Barbara, isbefore they arrested Michael Jacksonis presented the evidence to the grand jury including the exculpatory evidence. That evidence that demonstrated that he was not guilty. And then come down, if in fact the grand jury voted for an indictment
Tanenbaum reminds the views that a grand jury involves no judge, no defense attorney and no defendant. It is solely the district attorney, a legal advisor to the grand jurors and the prosecution. He also says that grand jury is not proof of guilt:
an indictment is proof of nothing. Its simply an accusatory instrument. Its the means by which the prosecutor brings the defendant to trial.
Tanenbaum is certainly not the first legal professional to see something wrong with the way in which the prosecution has gone about executing this case. Gerald Uelman, a professor at Santa Clara Law University School of Law, says that it is
unheard of for a district attorney to file criminal charges and then convene a grand jury. If he uncovered some other crimes he wants to charge, he should just dismiss the pending charges and then go to trial on a grand jury indictment that includes the pending charges. (see Grand jury seen as unusual at this stage in Jackson case )
Loyola School of Law professor Laurie Levenson says:
It could mean he just wants to handle everything in secret and avoid a preliminary hearing, or it could mean he doesn’t have much of a case and doesn’t want to proceed, but is letting the grand jury take the political heat when they don’t indict The standard is so low for a grand jury that if you can’t convince them to indict, you have to think long and hard before you pursue the case. (see Grand jury seen as unusual at this stage in Jackson case )
Whatever the outcome, its quite clear that many things are usual, if not outright inexplicably stupid, in this case. Stay tuned. You can see video of Tanenbaum’s comments in the MJEOL Downloads section. -MJEOL