Guerrilla Law
Putnam County's grand jury should stand on its own

Our Justice Center masked man has his ear to the ground

Putnam Pit Guerrilla Law columnist

An interesting story came out of McMinnville recently.

District Attorney Dale Potter was been indicted by the local grand jury for official misconduct and official oppression. The charges arise out of an incident wherein a young mother was attempting to collect her child support through the DA's office. Her family wrote a derogatory letter to the local newspaper. Then the DA called the mother and agreed to collect the child support only if she would write another letter to the local paper favorable to the DA. And she tape recorded the conversation. Now the DA faces a jury trial and possible ouster proceedings.

First, I would say that of course the DA is entitled to the presumption of innocence accorded most everyone. However, if there develops any truth to the allegations, he should be removed from office. I am also concerned that the State Attorney General, a former DA himself, declined to prosecute this case which a grand jury of 13 citizens indicted. It does nothing to promote the concept of justice in this state when a former DA refuses to prosecute a sitting DA. He owes the public an explanation for his failure to act.

But it is refreshing to see citizens concerned when their elected prosecutor violates the law himself, and take it upon themselves to prosecute the DA. Most grand juries are useless and lifeless entities who do nothing but act upon the direction of the DA. That has been extremely evident in Putnam County. Here, the grand juries merely rubber stamp the desires of the DA without conducting an independent investigation of their own. This was clearly what happened in the notorious "Hargis" case wherein a young girl was shot and rendered a vegetable. One of her parents, or maybe both, were clearly responsible for that heinous act, but no one was prosecuted because the DA wouldn't and the grand jury didn't. They merely said that the victim's mother was crazy, and that was that.

Hopefully, some day, a judge will instill some backbone in our grand jury and they will start doing what they are suppose to be doing under the law; investigating criminal acts and indicting those responsible, regardless of the desire of the DA.

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