I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe Halloween. We had a wonderful time trick or treating safely. Halloween looked very different this year, but at least we were able to enjoy it!
Part two of the journey of a case is the Grand Jury. Not all cases have to go in front of a Grand Jury. Some cases, such as those involving drugs, fraud, and misdemeanors can be charged at the sole discretion of a prosecutor through a document known as an “accusation.” Other cases like murder, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking, and burglary, must go through the grand jury before they can be placed on a list of cases, known as the “docket,” to be handled by the Superior Court.
A grand jury hears evidence from law enforcement officers and must determine whether there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. If they agree, they issue a “true bill.” If they do not find probable cause, they issue a “no bill.” A Grand Jury is mandated in the Bill of Rights under the 5th Amendment. It is an extremely important check on the power of the police and the District Attorney.
Because of the Judicial Emergency, we have not had a Grand Jury in months. With the recent easing of restrictions, my office was finally able to conduct Grand Juries in each of the four counties of the Circuit. This means that many cases that were in limbo because of the pandemic shutdown are now on their way to trial.
Perhaps the most notable development in the meeting of a Grand Jury and the fight against crime in our Circuit came from Upson County. An Upson County jury allowed a nearly 100-count indictment to go forward against 46 suspected members of the “Rollin 20s Neighborhood Blood” street gang. The charges against these suspected gang members range from racketeering to violations of the Georgia Gang Act. In simple terms, these charges criminalize engaging in organized crime activities and carry hefty sentences of up to 20 years for each count.
These indictments came about through the hard work of the Georgia Bureau Investigation’s “Operation Caged Doves.” Governor Kemp has made combatting street gangs a priority at the GBI, and this operation is one example of those efforts. I, along with my state and local law enforcement partners, also make combating street gangs a high priority. I am thankful for the GBI’s hard work, as well as the cooperation of Sheriffs Babb, Dix, Thomas, and Kilgore. Working together, we are one step closer to protecting our community by driving out organized crime.
I also cannot stress enough how appreciative I am for all those members of our community who answered the call for Grand Jury duty. I want to thank our Judges, Clerks, and Court Services for taking the necessary steps to allow grand jury to go forward in a safe manner.
As I held Grand Jury in all four counties, I was often asked, “how do you continue to do this when it seems like crime never ends?” It is true that it seems like a never-ending cycle. But, if I can do something today that improves one person’s life, haven’t I changed the world just a bit for the better? That is what keeps me going. My challenge to you this week is to ask what you have done to change the world, even in the smallest bit, today. Say a kind word to someone. Check on someone who may be struggling. Reach out to volunteer with an organization that serves the community. We can all find ways to make our world a better place. Let’s start today. Until next time, be kind to one another.