Santa Barbara County Grand Jury
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The concept of juries dates back to the Norman times in the ninth century. By 1215 the jury concept had evolved into a guarantee expressed in the Magna Carta that no free man would be imprisoned or (dispossessed) or exiled or in any way destroyed except by the lawful judgment of his peers. In the United States the Massachusetts Bay colony impaneled the first grand jury in 1635 to consider cases of murder, robbery and wife beating. The U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment and the California Constitution call for grand juries. Grand juries were established throughout California during the early years of statehood.
The grand jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the three predominant functions include:
A. Civil Government Oversight. This is the major function of present day grand jurors, and considerable effort is devoted to these responsibilities. The grand jury may examine all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the best interests of Santa Barbara County citizens are being served. The grand jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by county government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The grand jury is also authorized to:
Most grand jury oversight findings are contained in reports describing problems encountered and making recommendations for solutions. These are interim reports and are released upon completion.
At the end of its term, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury issues a final report on the operations of Santa Barbara County government. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors must comment upon the jury's recommendations within 90 days.
B. Citizen Complaints. As part of the civil function, the grand jury receives many letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received from citizens are acknowledged and investigated for their validity. Such complaints are kept confidential. If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the grand jury, appropriate action is taken.
C. Criminal Investigations. Occasionally and under certain circumstances, a special Criminal Grand Jury is selected to holds hearings to determine whether evidence presented by the district attorney is of sufficient nature to warrant a person to stand trial in court. A minimum of twelve jurors must vote for an indictment in any criminal proceedings. The types of cases presented to the grand jury by the district attorney usually include:
Grand Jurors are a diverse volunteer group of citizens from the five supervisorial districts. The community is best served by a mix of ethnic, gender, age and economic differences. In order to accomplish the county oversight functions, committees are normally established to address:
The Grand Jury is responsive to the suggestions and complaints from citizens about issues the jury should investigate. Each suggestion is reviewed by the full Grand Jury, or assigned to one of the jury’s committees for consideration. You can contact the Grand Jury through mail, phone, fax and email. Though the jury cannot investigate every issue, every comment is duly considered. All complaints received by the grand jury are treated confidentially. The Grand Jury’s records may not be inspected nor subpoenaed. All Grand Jury investigations and interviews are kept secret.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY GRAND JURY
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