By FRANK MASTROPOLO
March 27, 2009—
Luzerne County sits in the heart of northeastern Pennsylvania; Wilkes-Barre is the county seat, a hardscrabble, blue-collar city struggling in this latest recession.
People there were shocked in January when federal prosecutors announced that respected county judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan had pleaded guilty to tax evasion and honest services fraud, the result of a lengthy investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI. Yesterday the Pa. State Supreme Court overturned hundreds of convictions of low-level offenders, ruling that all juveniles who had appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008 had not been adequately informed when they waived their right to counsel.
It's not over, however, for all of the other kids Ciavarella sent to jail. Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in a statement that Thursday's decision wasn't intended to be "a quick fix."
"It's going to take some time, but the Supreme Court is committed to righting whatever wrong was perpetrated on Luzerne's juveniles and their families," he said. FULL STORY AND VIDEO.
Would this have happened if our schools were doing their duty and teaching Civics. Civics starts with knowing your Rights that are in every State Constitution as well as the Federal Constitution. Isn't it time for parents to start insisting that the public schools start teaching Civics along with American History in Elementary School the way it use to be? The Bill of Rights Institute has wonderful class room lesions on their web sit that any teacher or parent can use for FREE.
Jury Education is another missing element from education. People are serving on juries today not knowing what their real job is. Isn't it time for people to start educating themselves as well as their community? Could Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan have so devastated Luzerne County, Pennsylvania if Luzerne County parents had know what their child's Rights were?
How A Jury Is Chosen: Jury History
HISTORY OF FEDERAL GRAND JURY POWER
I want to draw your attention to a law review article, CREIGHTON LAW REVIEW, Vol. 33, No. 4 1999-2000, 821, IF IT’S NOT A RUNAWAY, IT’S NOT A REAL GRAND JURY by Roger Roots, J.D.
“In addition to its traditional role of screening criminal cases for prosecution, common law grand juries had the power to exclude prosecutors from their presence at any time and to investigate public officials without governmental influence. These fundamental powers allowed grand juries to serve a vital function of oversight upon the government. The function of a grand jury to ferret out government corruption was the primary purpose of the grand jury system in ages past.”
The 5th Amendment:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.”
An article appearing in American Juror, the newsletter of the American Jury Institute and the Fully Informed Jury Association, citing the famed American jurist, Joseph Story, explained :
“An indictment is a written accusation of an offence preferred to, and presented, upon oath, as true, by a grand jury, at the suit of the government. An indictment is framed by the officers of the government, and laid before the grand jury. Presentments, on the other hand, are the result of a jury’s independent action:
‘A presentment, properly speaking, is an accusation, made by a grand jury of its own mere motion, of an offence upon its own observation and knowledge, or upon evidence before it, and without any bill of indictment laid before it at the suit of the government. Upon a presentment, the proper officer of the court must frame an indictment, before the party accused can be put to answer it.’
Back to the Creighton Law Review:
“A ‘runaway’ grand jury, loosely defined as a grand jury which resists the accusatory choices of a government prosecutor, has been virtually eliminated by modern criminal procedure. Today’s “runaway” grand jury is in fact the common law grand jury of the past. Prior to the emergence of governmental prosecution as the standard model of American criminal justice, all grand juries were in fact “runaways,” according to the definition of modern times; they operated as completely independent, self-directing bodies of inquisitors, with power to pursue unlawful conduct to its very source, including the government itself.”