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Petitions to impanel grand juries

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Six states have laws allowing citizens to impanel grand juries through the process of collecting signatures on petitions: Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada and Oklahoma.[1]

The most famous citizen-initiated grand jury in recent times was formed in Oklahoma after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. The citizens who collected signatures to impanel a grand jury in this case believed that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had been part of a wider conspiracy and that the government had not done enough to investigate. The grand jury they impanelled by petition found no evidence of this.[2]

Examples of citizen-petitioned grand juries

Death of Jarret Clark in Wagoner, Oklahoma (2008)

April 18, 2008: Circulation of a petition to impanel a grand jury in Wagoner County, Oklahoma was approved on April 18 by Judge Bruce Sewell. The purpose of the grand jury would be to investigate the death of Jarret Clark, who died in 2006 under troubling circumstances.

The request to circulate the petition was made to Judge Sewell by Clark's family. The family has 45 days to gather the approximately 3,000 signatures of registered voters needed to force the impanelment of the grand jury.

If the signatures are successfully collected, the county election board must certify them to the judge, who will then have 30 days to convene the requested grand jury.[3]

George Tiller abortion clinic in Kansas (2008)

May 7, 2008: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on May 6 that a citizen-petitioned grand jury can proceed to investigate George Tiller's Women's Healthcare Services clinic, but must do so with oversight from a trial judge. Lawyers for Tiller had asked the Supreme Court to nullify the 1887 law that allows citizen-impanelment of grand juries.

7,000 signatures had been collected to impanel a grand jury in Wichita by Troy Newman of Operation Rescue West. The grand jury impaneled through this process issued a subpoena to the Tiller abortion clinic seeking 2,000 medical records. This action of the grand jury was contested by lawyers for the abortion clinic, leading to May's ruling from the Kansas high court.

In January 2008, the Tiller grand jury issued a subpoena for records of every woman at least 22 weeks pregnant who had received or sought an abortion at the clinic for the past five years.

The opinion of the court said, "The court should satisfy itself that the grand jury has not engaged in an arbitrary fishing expedition" and imposed oversight by a judge of the inquisitive grand jury in order to ensure future compliance with the high court's view of the matter.[4][5]

Judge Wayne Griego in New Mexico (2008)

A group of citizens in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is considering a petition to force the impanelment of a grand jury to investigate Judge Wayne Griego. They believe he is guilty of fixing traffic tickets for family and staff.[6][7][8]

Wichita, Kansas adult bookstore (2005)

In November 2005, a grand jury impaneled in Kansas through citizen petition indicted an adult bookstore in Wichita on one misdemeanor charge for violating obscenity laws. The grand jury did not return indictments against six other adult bookstores that it investigated under the terms of its impanelment.

Operation Southwind, a group that objected to the bookstores, collected 7,500 signatures requesting that the grand jury be convened.[9]

See also

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