Deliberations on whether to try a white police officer for the controversial shooting of an unarmed black teenager are focusing attention on a unique aspect of America’s criminal justice system, the grand jury. We are the only nation that allows citizens -- not the government -- to screen criminal charges before they may go to trial. This dates to our nation’s early history and is enshrined in our Constitution.
Eighteen-year old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, was shot six times and killed by Officer Darren Wilson during an arrest in August. Police said Brown attacked Wilson and tried to get his gun. Others said Brown was trying to surrender. His death led to months of protests, some violent, and made Ferguson the focus of a national debate about race and police procedures.
That Michael Brown is dead is a fact, but the circumstances surrounding his death are murky. That’s where the grand jury comes in.
A panel of 12 local residents – five women and seven men – is reviewing the case. They’ll hear evidence collected in the government’s investigation, and based on that they’ll decide if Wilson should be charged with a crime, such as murder or manslaughter. Unlike a trial, no judge is present, and grand jury members may ask questions and call for more evidence if they believe it exists. They want to answer two questions: is there probable cause to believe a crime was committed, and, is there evidence to show that Wilson was involved in that crime. If at least nine of the 12, voting in secret, decide that it’s reasonable to believe Wilson could be found guilty of a crime, the case will go to trial. If they don’t, no further action is taken unless additional evidence is found.
The notion of a citizen’s investigative panel stretches to old English law, where many American legal principles are rooted. It was intended to prevent the king from being able to prosecute his critics without good reason. America’s Founding Fathers adopted it in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which codifies many of our legal protections, such as the right against self-incrimination.
The system has its critics. Grand jurors often hear only the prosecutor’s side of the case and are persuaded by them. But by requiring a burden of proof be presented before a person can be tried for a crime, the grand jury system provides an important check against arbitrary government action.
1.enshrine vt. 铭记，珍藏；把…置于神龛内；把…奉为神圣
This system is enshrined in our Constitution.
2.manslaughter n. 杀人；过失杀人；一般杀人罪
A judge accepted her plea that she was guilty of manslaughter, not murder.
3.grand jury 大陪审团
They have already given evidence before a grand jury in Washington.
4.codify vt. 编纂；将...编成法典；编成法典
The latest draft of the agreement codifies the panel's decision.
1.But by requiring a burden of proof be presented before a person can be tried for a crime, the grand jury system provides an important check against arbitrary government action.
check against 核对；检查
Check the numbers below against the numbers on your card.
Check the operator'sproductivity against agreed targets.
在引发争议的手无寸铁黑人少年被枪击一案中，对于考虑是否审判白人警察，目前的关注点在于美国刑事司法体系的一个独特方面—大陪审团。只有美国允许公民，而非政府来在审判之前就刑事指控进行筛选 。这一惯例要追溯到美国早期历史，且已纳入美国宪法之中 。
一个由12名当地居民组成的小组目前正审查此案，包括5名妇女和7名男子。他们将听取政府调查获取的证据，并基于此做出是否指控威尔森以刑事罪的决定，比如谋杀或故意杀人 。与审判不同的是，这里没有法官，大陪审团成员可能会问问题，如果他们认为还需更多证据，就会要求获得更多证据 。他们想回答两个问题，又没有理由可以让人相信已经有犯罪发生，是否有证据表明威尔森参与到犯罪中 。如果12个人中至少有9人认为有理由相信威尔森犯下罪行，那么此案将进入审理中 。如果没有这么多人相信，那么除非找到额外证据，否则不会采取进一步行动 。