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Flint water case uses controversial one-person grand jury

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2021 | The Justice System |

Those accused of a high-profile crime still deserve to have their due process rights upheld. This can be a challenge if the defendant is well-known or if the charges grab national attention. One situation that has been particularly news-worthy over the past few years is the Flint water crisis. However, the Flint water case being brought against former Governor Rick Snyder is using a type of legal tactic that many people, including some experts, do not even know about: the one-person grand jury.

What is a one-person grand jury?

The one-person grand jury is a bit of a secretive affair. Unlike a traditional grand jury where a panel of people will hear evidence and decide what charges to bring against the defendant, in a one-person grand jury a single person will review the evidence in private to determine what charges the defendant should face. The one-person grand jury provides a means for witnesses to give confidential evidence unlike a traditional preliminary examination where witnesses can be cross-examined by the defense. This changes how evidence is turned over to the defense and delays the defense’s ability to perform cross-examinations of the plaintiff’s witnesses.

Does a one-person grand jury violate the defendant’s due process rights?

Prosecutors claim that the one-person grand jury is needed to compel reluctant witnesses to testify. However, defense attorneys claim the one-person grand jury strips them of any role in the proceedings. They believe this denies the defendant’s due process rights. By skipping the traditional preliminary examination, defense attorneys cannot cross-examine witnesses until the date of the trial.

Learn more about your rights as a defendant

If you are the defendant in a criminal case, it is important to understand your constitutional rights. This post is for informational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Our firm’s webpage on criminal defense may be a useful resource for those who want to learn more about criminal defense in Michigan.