Previous Prosecutorial Misconduct in a Grand Jury?–Bullet #131

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Previous Prosecutorial Misconduct in a Grand Jury? – MJEOL Bullet #131 New reports have surfaced about Jackson’s attorneys really going after this indictment and questioning the entire process surrounding the grand jury in general. This brought up comparisons to another case with which prosecutorial misconduct is alleged to have happened, involved this same current district attorney. This new grand jury indictment against Jackson puts the focus on the entire process with which the indictment was secured. The NY Daily News is reporting today (April 23) that it also highlights the “bad blood” between Jackson and current district attorney Tom Sneddon:

The new indictment also showcased the lingering bad blood between Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon and the pop singer, a source told the Daily News. Sneddon didn’t call Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos until news of the indictment was on television, the source said, and Sneddon refused to disclose the specific charges to Jackson’s lawyer. (see article)

The foundation has already been set to challenge this indictment by Jackson’s attorneys and a number of highly disturbing things are now surfacing about the process. ABC news is reporting that some of the grand jurors almost immediately wanted to indict Jackson without even deliberating. Now, this isn’t a decision one should take lightly and given other reports saying the accuser’s testimony was “shaky” at best, it seems very odd that jurors wouldn’t even want to entertain the notion that Jackson could be innocent of the charges. This indictment comes on the hills of an astonishing comment from Judge Rodney Melville reportedly during the April 2 hearing in the case. Melville is quoted as saying:

And I want to remind you that the reason we’re doing this is to ensure that if there is a grand jury trial in the future, which I fully expect there to be…

Then he goes on with the rest of his statement. This was highlighted during an April 9 Abrams Report show (see video). First, Melville is not there in the grand jury room, so how would he know that a grand jury indictment was imminent? The ‘ham sandwich’ theory may be a little off in this case because before the special ‘Michael Jackson law’ (288a) was passed in California, there were 2 grand juries convened in the 93 case and neither one of them handed down an indictment against Jackson for lack of evidence. Now, it only takes the word of a child to further a case. Second, the statement by Melville was made in open court and could have had a huge affect on jury members, possibly warning the grand jury that they had better return an indictment against Jackson. In a string of other bizarre decisions and moves by the prosecution, this is yet another thing to add to the ‘suspicious activity’ file. Also a part of that figurative ‘suspicious activity’ file would be the Gary Dunlap case. It was reported on Dec 5 2003 that attorney Gary Dunlap filed a $10 million lawsuit in federal court against current district attorney Tom Sneddon charging racketeering, witness tampering, malicious prosecution and violation of civil rights. Dunlap was indicted on 6 felony counts of witness intimidation, perjury, and filing false documents. He was acquitted on all charges. The report read:

Dunlap and his attorneys, Burbank-based Joe Freeman & Associates, have requested a jury trial to resolve the suit. The district attorney’s office conspired against Dunlap, maliciously prosecuted him, and is guilty of racketeering and witness tampering, according to the complaint. It also accuses Sneddon and his office of conducting illegal searches of Dunlap’s property, violating his civil rights and defaming him.

Dunlap did a radio interview with MJJF Talk Radio (listen online) in which he openly discussed the misconduct that went on during his trial. He says:

Well, here’s what I can say about that is that they indicted me. They did not take me through the regular process. They did a grand jury investigation on me. The downside of…..ordinarily, with a grand jury proceeding, they do not have – the defendant does not know there is going to be a grand jury. I didn’t know there was a grand jury being convened in my case until after the indictment was handed down. When you have a grand jury proceeding, it’s essentially a rubber stamp for the district attorney’s charges and allows him to avoid a preliminary hearing, a probable cause hearing. (see transcript

He explained just what goes on in a grand jury; something echoed by many a legal analyst in the wake the apparent Jackson indictment:

There is no defense lawyer in the grand jury. There is no cross examination in the grand jury. There is no judge in the grand jury room. It’s just the grand jurors and the DA.

Dunlap says that if one were to read the grand jury transcript and compare it the actual trial transcript, they read absolutely nothing alike:

And in my case, if you read the grand jury transcript and then you compared it with the jury trial transcript, there is virtually no similarity. In my own case, the grand jury indictment transcript is farcical.

There will be a question as to if some of the information presented in a grand jury won’t be admissible at all in an actual trial. If the case is that Sneddon has presented information, or false information, that wouldn’t see the light of day at a real trial, it could be one of the things in a list of possibilities that the defense could use to get the indictment tossed. Dunlap further explains just why this farcical grand jury proceeding constituted misconduct:

I mean, the grand jurors asked questions because my case, it sounded a little fishy to a few of the grand jurors and they asked for an explanation. And the district attorney basically said, that’s not important. There were some things that sort of stood out as exculpatory or, you know, exonerating towards me. And a few of the grand jurors asked about, well, what about this? Or, what about that? And the district attorney said, ‘well, you’re just supposed to ignore that’. ‘Don’t worry about that’. ‘You know, we’ll try to get around to explaining that later’, which they never did. And they basically just control it.

So Dunlap is alleging that even with the grand jury asking questions about possible exculpatory evidence, their questions were dismissed or the effect of that exonerating evidence was purposely diminished by the prosecution. Although nothing has been confirmed, there is a possibility that this could have also happened in the Jackson case. Remember, there were binders full of evidence handed over to the prosecution by the defense; approximately 100 items and 61 exhibits of exonerating evidence. If you are the prosecution, you would have to be wondering what else the defense has if they can afford to hand over 100 items and 61 exhibits of anything in a “case” where the media is inaccurately reporting that it’s just Jackson’s word against the accuser. Speaking of the Jackson case in relation to the grand jury, Dunlap says he thinks the district attorney:

…wants to avoid the glare of a probable cause hearing. Because it will be extraordinarily embarrassing to him if he can’t even get past a preliminary hearing. And so he doesn’t want to have a regular preliminary hearing where his officers will be subject to examination. And so that’s why he wants the grand jury to indict if he can.

Avoiding the glare of the media certainly would explain why such incredibly extraordinary means were taken to hide information from the public and from the defense. And with this information about possible past misconduct with at least one other grand jury, Jackson’s lawyers may be doing the right thing with questioning the grand jury process. It is already peculiar that a prosecutor would arrest and file charges. Then, 4 months later, come back and seek a grand jury indictment. It is backwards to say the least. Now, there could be serious problems with just how he got the indictment if past behavior is any indication. Also a new report from the LA Times says that this process is so shrouded with suspicious secrecy that even the attorney from two of the men who were targets of the grand jury don’t even know if they’ve been indicted:

On Thursday, an attorney for two Jackson associates who had been accused of threatening the alleged victim’s family said even he couldn’t find out from Santa Barbara County authorities whether his clients had been indicted. “They need to tell me so we can make travel arrangements,” said Joseph Tacopina, a New York attorney representing Vincent Amen and Frank Tyson. (see article)

This is incredibly unusual. The report also quotes attorney Gerald Uelman as questioning the reasons behind convening a grand jury:

“The prosecution is not supposed to use the grand jury as a discovery tool to prepare a case that already has been charged,” he said.

A prosecutor with a history of shady conduct in front of a grand jury? A judge possibly poisoning the jury pool by saying he expects them to indict Jackson? If Jackson’s lawyers can in any way show misconduct with this grand jury, there is a strong possibility that the indictment may get tossed. If it happens, Sneddon will either have to do it all over again or take the case to a preliminary hearing. Although there hasn’t been an update about the Dunlap civil case recently, given the fact that the district attorney is currently being sued in federal court for prosecutorial misconduct (among other things) in that case, the indictment in the Jackson “case” getting thrown out is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. -MJEOL

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