State Rep. Brandon Ellington said Thursday he wants to abolish grand juries in Missouri.
The Kansas City Democrat said he’d filed a bill to do so. If the General Assembly agrees, the proposed constitutional amendment would go on the November 2016 statewide ballot.
Ellington’s bill comes on the heels of a highly controversial grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
“Trust in the legal system requires an open and transparent process,” Ellington said. “Grand juries, by contrast, operate in secrecy and under the complete control of prosecutors, undermining public trust in the system.
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“In light of the biased grand jury proceedings that took place in the Michael Brown case, Missourians should have the chance to consider whether the antiquated grand jury process still serves a legitimate purpose in our modern criminal justice system.”
Ellington noted that use of grand juries dates back centuries. They’re used to determine if the evidence is sufficient to proceed with prosecution.
But he said the a grand jury indictment is no longer necessary to bring charges. The lawmaker said it’s more common these days for prosecutors to simply file charges. Defendants are then entitled to a preliminary hearing where the judge determines in public proceedings if the evidence is sufficient.
Ellington’s proposal is House Joint Resolution 17. The session begins Jan. 7.