Tag Archives: grand jury

Get to work, grand jury

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The grand jury has been seated, sworn in and given its task.

It works for the Manhattan, N.Y., district attorney’s office and is being asked to determine whether to indict Donald Trump, the company he owns, anyone who works for him and perhaps even members of the ex-president’s family.

The grand jury is looking for criminal misbehavior.

Hmm. Now I don’t how you look at this, but I would consider this to be a serious wakeup call for Donald Trump that the Manhattan DA’s legal eagles are in hot pursuit of criminality involving the the former POTUS.

To be sure, Trump calls it all “political” and part of what he calls the “greatest witch hunt” in human history … or words to that effect.

He offers no evidence of pure partisanship other than just to call it what he alleges it to be.

I feel the need to remind readers of this blog that grand jurors swear to look objectively at evidence presented to them. Failure to be impartial carries criminal penalties of their own. What sane individual would take such an oath with no intention of being faithful to it?

Oh, wait! Trump took an oath, too,  to defend the Constitution and to serve the country with honor and honesty. Do you think he was faithful to his oath? Well, me neither.

Which suggests to me that the grand jury is going to take great care in its pursuit of potential criminal liability in Trump’s business dealings.

So, with that … time to get busy, grand jurors.

Jury duty will have to wait

JPhoto by Jason Doiy
By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

An automated phone call this afternoon dashed my hopes … yet again!

I had hoped to be called for jury duty next week when I reported to the Collin County administration building. Alas, it won’t happen. The call came to inform me that I was being dismissed, that my services are not required.

Maybe next time, yes? Perhaps? Do ya think?

This is a big deal for me. I have always wanted to serve on a trial jury. Not because I lust for the duty. It’s just that I always have wondered to myself what happens in a jury room when a group of men and women gather to ponder how a particular case — civil or criminal — should go. I guess it’s the reporter in me, the nosey, inquisitive side of my persona that drives this interest.

Then again, perhaps I can blame the career I pursued for nearly 37 years as one reason why I never have been called.

When we lived in Randall County, Texas, I would get a summons. I would call the day prior and the automated system would tell me not to bother.

I did serve on a grand jury in Randall County for a period of time. That was a fascinating call to duty. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the jury room pondering whether to indict someone on a criminal complaint. When we were sworn in by the presiding judge, though, I recall vividly something the district attorney at the time told us. James Farren said we likely never would be summoned for trial jury duty in Randall County because of our grand jury service. Why? Defense attorneys would strike us because they could argue we are prejudiced in favor of the prosecuting side. Oh, well.

We moved from Randall County to Collin County. I want to wipe the slate clean.

However, the call won’t come this time. Again!

I’ll have to wait for another summons. I hope to serve on a trial jury before I check out of this world.

Hoping to get the call for jury duty

I am not a weirdo. Really. I’m not. I do, though, want to fulfill a civic duty that always seems to escape me.

I want to serve on a trial jury.

My wife and I moved from Randall County to Collin County in Texas a little more than a year ago. We registered to vote almost immediately. We have renewed our motor vehicle tags in Collin County. The folks at the county clerk’s office know we’re residents of this county; so do those at the district clerk’s office as well as the tax collector-assessor’s office.

It’s just that whenever I have gotten the call during all those years — 23 of them, in fact — that we lived in Randall County, I always was told “don’t bother to report.” I’d get my summons. I would call the preceding day after 5 p.m., per the instruction on the summons. Then I would get told that the cases all had settled and that “all jurors” were excused.

Damn, man!

I once served on a grand jury in Randall County. The district attorney, James Farren, told us that service on the grand jury likely would disqualify us from any trial jury, given that grand juries serve under the direction of the state. The grand jury receives criminal complaints from the DA’s office and then decides whether to indict someone for the crime listed on the complaint. That was a marvelous experience.

Still, now that I’ve moved away I am hopeful that the court system in Collin County — whether it’s a district court, a county court at law or a justice of the peace — would see fit to summon me to report for jury duty.

I’ve always wanted to sit on a trial jury. Does my grand jury experience taint me forever as a “pro-cop” kinda guy? No. It does not.

Hey, I’m retired now. I’ve got nothing but time on my hands. I don’t work for a living, although we have plenty to do around our house. It can wait, though, while I would serve on a trial jury.

Too many people look for ways to evade/avoid/skip jury duty. Not me. I want to serve. Come and get me. I’m all yours.

Still waiting for jury duty

I must be a weirdo.

I’m now 68 years of age and I have a item on my bucket list that I likely won’t ever fulfill.

I want to serve on a trial jury. I want to get the chance to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent of a crime. I even would settle for a civil case that would allow me to rule in favor of a plaintiff or a defendant.

It won’t happen. Not likely ever.

Over many years of living I’ve heard too many friends and acquaintances gripe about serving on a jury. They don’t have the time. They don’t want to be bothered. Public service? Let someone else do it!

Why, I never …

I posted a blog item in February 2009 that called attention to a local sheriff reporting for jury duty. Randall County’s top cop, Joel Richardson, performed his act of public service.

So, what’s your excuse?

I was proud of Sheriff Richardson.

Alas, I won’t be able to do what he did … more than likely.

In Randall County, where I’ve lived for more than two decades, I receive jury summonses about two, maybe three times a year. The county’s automated system allows summons recipients to call the prior evening to see if we have to report. Almost without fail, I call and the recording excuses “all jurors” until the next time we get called.

Then there’s this grand jury matter. I served on a Randall County grand jury some years ago. We met for three months, handing out indictments and no-billing people listed in criminal complaints brought by the district attorney’s office. The DA, James Farren, told us we could kiss any future jury duty goodbye, given our grand jury experience. Why? Defense counsel would strike us as being biased in favor of the prosecution.


I know this sounds strange. I do wish I could get a jury summons, answer it, report for duty and then get selected to hear a case. Hey, the pay is lousy.

Then again, public service isn’t about personal enrichment … correct?

Grand jury portends intensifying of probe?

Am I able to make a presumption without sounding presumptuous?

I’ll give it a shot.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel assigned to examine Russian meddling in our 2016 election, reportedly has just impaneled a grand jury to begin hearing evidence and, more than likely, call witnesses to tell the panel what they know about this matter.

Here’s my presumption: I am going to presume that Mueller’s investigation is gaining some speed and that the former FBI director just might be smelling some blood in the water around Donald J. Trump and his presidential campaign team.

Recall for a moment another grand jury that a special counsel impaneled. I refer to the panel called into duty at the behest of Kenneth Starr, who was ostensibly examining a real estate transaction involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then he stumbled onto something quite unexpected: a relationship that President Clinton was having with a young White House intern. He summoned the president to testify before the grand jury, which asked him about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the truth.

Bingo! Impeachment followed.

Is the past going to be a prologue for what might await the current president?

As the Wall Street Journal reports: “Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.”

I believe it also suggests that Mueller might expand his probe into areas other than precisely the Russian meddling and the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump presidential campaign. There might be a subpoena or two coming that deals with, say, Trump’s tax returns and assorted business connections involving Trump’s business interests and Russian government officials.

Here’s another presumption: This story is still building.

Jury duty won’t happen … more than likely

I don’t have a lengthy bucket list.

My final bucket-list destination is Australia. Haven’t been there, but my wife and I intend to make the journey — possibly sooner rather than later.

The to-do bucket list used to include things such as jumping out an airplane or bungee jumping off the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. They’re off the list now.

I do, though, want to serve on a trial jury. Sadly, I believe that bucket list desire also is fading away. You likely won’t see my backside planted in a seat such as one of those pictured with this blog post.

We returned this weekend from a trip to South Texas and I had a jury summons from Randall County, Texas, waiting for me. I was to report this morning, except that when I called Tuesday night the recorded voice told me they didn’t need any jurors and that we were excused until we got summoned the next time.


This has been the story of my jury-duty life for decades now. I get the summons and then am told to forget about it. Once, not long after we moved to Amarillo in 1995, I did get a summons and was told to report. I did. We sat around for most of the morning and then the judge came out and told us the cases had all been settled. He thanked us for our time and then we left.

I might have cooked my own bucket-list goose, though, by accepting an appointment more than a decade ago to serve on a Randall County grand jury. These are the folks who are appointed by a state district judge and then told to report one day each week for three months. That’s where we heard criminal complaints and decided whether to indict or “no-bill” a suspect in a criminal case.

It was one of the most fascinating public service duties imaginable. I learned a great deal about my community. The most glaring thing I learned is that Randall County is chock full of people who do terrible things to other people, namely children. Many of the complaints we heard — and the detail supplied by assistant district attorneys — sickened us to our core.

However, I remember quite vividly something that District Attorney James Farren told us after we had taken the oath to serve. It was that if we had any thought of ever getting picked for a trial jury that we’d might as well forget it. No criminal defense counsel would allow us to serve on a trial jury knowing that we had served on a grand jury. Such service, I was led to believe, marked us as “biased” against a defendant.

Heck, knowing that I’d settle just for making the first cut and then getting struck during juror selection.

Alas, it’s possible that won’t happen, either.

I am not seeking the big bucks. Texas doesn’t pay its trial jurors a lot of money; for that matter, we didn’t get paid much for our service on the grand jury, either.

Whatever the case, I’ll keep answering the summonses when they arrive. My hope, while fading, isn’t yet dead.


Ex-cop won't face federal civil rights charges

I truly don’t know what to think about the Justice Department’s decision against prosecuting a former police officer in the death of a young black man.

Darren Wilson, formerly a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, was no-billed by a local grand jury this past year after he shot Michael Brown to death during an altercation.

The grand jury’s decision to let Wilson go set off a firestorm across the nation.

Then the Justice Department said it would weigh in on whether Wilson violated any federal civil rights laws when he shot Brown to death. The DOJ said today it wouldn’t prosecute him.


Is this a good thing? For Wilson, who quit the department after the grand jury cleared him, it’s certainly good news. Brown’s family no doubt feels differently.

Me? I tend to honor the local criminal justice system’s view on these matters. The locals said they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges against the officer and the feds have concurred with what the locals decided.

But there’s an interesting political back story here. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has been criticized — wrongly, in my view — as a “race-baiter.” The calls come from those on the right who contend that Holder, the nation’s first African-American AG, too often relies on race to inform his public policies.

Well, here we have a Justice Department deciding that the white former police officer didn’t commit a crime that needed a federal civil-rights trial to resolve.

Does that mean the criticism of Holder will subside, now that his department — which he is about to leave — has sided with the white guy?

Do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.


Officers' death 'touched soul of nation'

Vice President Joe Biden said this week that the deaths of two New York City police officers “touched the soul of the nation.”

I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, but the deaths did spark an additional — and much-needed — national conversation about the right and wrong ways to respond to controversy involving law enforcement.


The vice president attended the funeral of Rafael Ramos, one of two officers gunned down in Brooklyn the other day by a goon who was responding to the choking death of Eric Garner in a Staten Island confrontation with officers. Garner’s death and the grand jury decision not to indict the officer who choked Garner to death, coming on the heels of the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown, has contributed a lot of unrest, violence and further criminal activity.

Ramos’s death along with fellow officer Wenjian Liu has touched many Americans at many levels. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the shootings “an attack on all of us.”

There can be no silver lining to be found in this incident, other than to call attention to the lawless response to perceived wrongs done by the criminal justice system.

The grand jury — in my view — erred on not indicting the officer who choked Eric Garner to death. No responsible individual, though, responds by attacking other police officers in the cowardly manner that resulted in the deaths of Ramos and Liu.

It does my heart some measure of good to see these officers honored. They were heroes of the first order. And yes, their deaths have touched our soul.


Grand jury no-bill is in; let calm prevail

This might be too much to ask, but I’ll ask it anyway.

Can the good folks of Ferguson, Mo., resist the urge to damage people’s property and injure fellow human beings in the wake of the grand jury’s decision to decline prosecution of a white police officer who shot a black youth to death this past summer?

The grand jury returned the no-bill decision this evening in the case of Officer Darren Wilson; the dead teen is Michael Brown.

The town has been the subject of intense media scrutiny ever since the shooting. There’s been a lot of anxiety, anger and tension in the town ever since. The media have contributed to much of the tension, in my view, with its incessant coverage of the event, the aftermath, and the potential for violence if the grand jury made the decision it did today.

Yes, there have been some key questions asked about the state of police relations with the African-American community — in Ferguson and in cities and towns across the country. They are valid questions that ask whether African-American youth are treated the same as other youth by the police.

Let’s examine those questions.

As for the reaction to the no-bill, let’s also understand that the shop owner, the restaurant proprietor or the average Joe aren’t culpable. They’re all innocent victims of random violence that has erupted as a result of past perceived injustices.

We need not create more of them.



Abuse of power allegation may spell trouble

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is looking and sounding more and more like a candidate for president in 2016.

That is, unless he gets indicted by a Travis County grand jury for abusing the power of his office.

If he faces criminal charges, all bets are off for the lame-duck governor.


The panel is expected to decide soon whether Perry abused his power when he vetoed money for the Travis County district attorney’s office after DA Rosemary Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunken driving. Perry demanded her resignation, which was justified, given that the DA lost her moral authority to prosecute drunken drivers.

Then he allegedly went a step too far by threatening to veto $7.5 million that was earmarked for the Travis County DA’s public integrity unit, which is charged with investigating charges of ethical lapses by state officials.

Oh, did I mention that Lehmberg is a Democrat and Perry is a Republican? That distinction seems to matter.

Lehmberg refused to quit and Perry pulled the money.

Now he’s being investigated for abusing his power.

So, what does this mean for his budding presidential campaign? Plenty. He cannot possibly campaign as a Mr. Clean Governor if he’s about to stand trial for a felony offense related to the performance of the office he’s occupied since The Flood.

Then again, if the grand jury no-bills the governor — which of course is a possibility — then he’s back in the presidential sweepstakes once again.

But if the indictment arrives, well, if you’ll pardon the expression: Oops.