How a grand jury works in Oregon

In Multnomah County, 5 of 7 grand jurors must agree

A statue representing justice. (KOIN 6 News, file)
A statue representing justice. (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — As two grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York continue to spark controversy around the country, as well as here in Portland, their inner workings remain unclear to many.

Grand jury cases, which evolved from common law and are used to adjudicate any charge involving a felony, are handled by state.

In Oregon, each county sets up its own grand jury system. In Multnomah County, for example, seven citizens are elected at random from a regular jury pool, and appointed as grand jurors.

“The grand jury process is very very old law,” said Jim McIntyre, a Portland defense attorney who handles officer-involved shootings, and spent years as a senior deputy district attorney prosecuting the cases.

In Oregon, a majority — five of seven — grand jurors must agree on whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial jury to convict the defendant. Recall in Missouri, nine of 12 grand jurors decided not to convict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“The intent was to no longer let the king do the charging decisions and to put the citzens between the government and the charging decisions.”

In Clackamas and Multnomah Counties, all officer-involved shootings must go through a grand jury in order to be tried.

“I think this is a fair process and fair way to do it,” McIntyre said in response to public cries that the system is “broken.”

“It’s a matter of putting in all of the evidence so you know what happened, so as a member of the community, you can determine whether crimes were committed or not,” said McIntyre.

The United States is among the only countries in the world that continue to use the grand jury system.

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