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Importance of Jury Service
Personal inconvenience may be caused by jury service, but if we are to preserve the grand jury as part of our democratic way of life, it is necessary that citizens from all walks of life serve on grand juries. Only a small percentage of citizens are privileged to serve as grand jurors. To serve as a grand juror is one of the highest responsibilities of citizenship, just as it is to vote or to serve in the defense of your country.

Responsibility of the Grand Jury
It is important for a grand juror to remember that they occupy an important position in the administration of criminal justice. While the grand jury is an arm of the Court, it has the right to act independently of the Court and Prosecutor, A grand juror should always act only upon the evidence received, giving each case serious and thoughtful consideration. Members of the grand jury who vote an indictment enjoy the same immunity from civil or criminal responsibility for their action as does a judge. A grand jury that acts fearlessly and conscientiously in discharging its duties will always fulfill its obligation to the public.

Grand Jury
Most state constitutions stipulate that no person shall be brought to trial for a crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary unless either the initial charge has been brought by indictment of a grand jury or the person has been given a prompt preliminary hearing and a judge has found probable cause. In cases presented to the grand jury, the grand jury has a dual function. It determines that a person should be charged or prosecuted for a criminal act when it finds there is probable cause to believe the person has committed an offense. At the same time, it protects the innocent from unfounded accusation of crime and from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a trial when there is, in fact, insufficient evidence to believe the accused is guilty of any criminal offense. The grand jury thus stands between the citizen and the State, pledged to bring before the Court, to answer to a charge of having committed a crime, persons against whom there is evidence of guilt and to prevent the unjust indictment of those who are accused of crime without sufficient evidence or because of private motives or popular feelings.

Selection of the Grand Jury
A grand jury is composed of 18 citizens chosen as provided by law from among the residents of the county in which it serves. At least 12 members must be present at each session before the grand jury may transact any business. Grand jurors serve until they are ordered discharged by the Circuit Court in the county. They meet at such times as the Court may direct or order on its own motion or that of the State's Attorney or Attorney General. In Texas, recording of grand jury proceedings is optional. If recorded, it is done by stenographic recorder.

Organization of the Grand Jury
Before the grand jury begins its work, the Court will select a foreperson from among the grand jury panel. The foreperson presides over all sessions of the grand jury, and has the responsibility to see that a quorum or at least 12 members is present at all times. The foreperson is also charged with the duty of swearing witnesses who appear before the grand jury and with performing other tasks in connection with the voting of indictments. After the foreperson is selected and sworn, the other members of the grand jury take an oath similar to this one:

"You and each of you do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be), that you will diligently inquire into and true presentment make of all such matters and things as shall be given you in charge, or shall otherwise come to your knowledge, touching the present service; you shall present no person through malice, hatred or ill-will; nor shall you leave any unpresented through fear, favor, affection, or for any fee or reward, or for any hope or promise thereof; but in all of your presentments, you shall present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, according to the best of your skill and understanding; so help you God."

Powers and Duties of the Grand Jury
The grand jury has the duty of inquiring into matters relating to crime or corruption in the area it serves. This information generally comes to its knowledge in the following ways:

  • Information submitted by the Prosecutor.
  • Information that may come to its knowledge in the course of its investigation of other matters.
  • Information called to its attention by the Court.
  • Information that it has of its own knowledge.

Grand Jury Witnesses
Generally the Prosecutor will arrange to have witnesses available to appear before the grand jury and ordinarily only witnesses for the State will be called to testify. In this way, proceedings before the grand jury differ from a trial of a case. However, the grand jury itself has the right to subpoena and question any person against whom the Prosecutor is seeking a Bill of Indictment, or any other person. Also, they may obtain and examine any documents or transcripts relevant to the matter being presented by the prosecutor. The prosecutor will inform the grand jury of these and other rights prior to the commencement of its duties, and, again, before the consideration of each matter or charge before it. Witnesses may have legal counsel present in the grand jury room to advise them of their rights. Counsel may not participate during the proceeding in any other way. If a witness requires an interpreter, the Court will authorize the presence of one in the grand jury room.

Privilege Against Self Incrimination
Most state constitutions stipulate that no person shall be forced to give testimony that would implicate that person in a criminal offense. Therefore, a witness before the grand jury may refuse to testify on the ground that the testimony would incriminate him or her. The grand jury may decide that the witness is not justified in refusing to answer. In that event, the grand jury has a right to appear before the Court in a hearing where the judge will decide whether the answers that the witness is requested to give may incriminate that witness. If the Court decides that the witness must answer, the witness will be ordered to give the grand jury the information it seeks or face punishment for contempt. The Prosecutor may decide to ask the Court to grant the witness immunity from prosecution for any criminal conduct the witness may reveal by his or her testimony. If the Court grants such immunity the witness is required to answer completely the questions asked by the Prosecutor or grand jurors. The witness may not thereafter be prosecuted for any crimes that testimony reveals. Ordinarily, potential defendants do not appear before the grand jury as witnesses. However, when the grand jury is conducting a broad investigation of criminal conduct, people who might later be the subject of indictment may be called to testify. Such a person has the right to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate him or her. If the witness is willing to sign a waiver of immunity from self-incrimination, that testimony will be received The grand jury should seek the legal advice of the Prosecutor in dealing with a witness who may be a potential defendant. It is important for a grand juror to avoid any feeling of hostility or prejudice toward a witness who invokes the privilege against self-incrimination. This is a constitutional right and your deliberations should not be influenced by one's refusal to testify.

When the witnesses have finished their testimony, it is then the duty of the grand jury to weigh the evidence that has been presented and to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to require the person or persons named to stand trial and answer the charge. The grand jury is the sole judge of the sufficiency of the evidence required to indict. After hearing the evidence and discussing the case among yourselves, the foreperson will exclude everyone except the grand jurors from the grand jury room and call for a vote. If nine or more jurors vote to require the defendant to stand trial for the offense, the State's Attorney will prepare a Bill of Indictment to be signed by the foreperson and returned into open Court. If the grand jury by its vote refuses to hold the defendant for trial, the Prosecutor may prepare a written memorandum to such effect, entitled "No Bill".

Grand Jury Secrecy
Unlike many governmental bodies whose actions must by taken openly and their deliberations conducted openly, the grand jury conducts its proceeding in the strictest secrecy. No one but the Prosecutor, a stenographic reporter, the witnesses, or other persons authorized by the Court or by law are allowed to be present in the jury room. In furtherance of justice and upon grounds of public policy, the law requires that the proceedings of grand juries shall be regarded as privileged communications. The secrets of the grand jury room shall not be revealed, except by the Prosecutor solely in the performance of his or her duties, when the Court directs otherwise in the interest of justice, or when a law authorizes the disclosure. Grand jurors must adhere strictly to this rule of secrecy. During jury service the jurors must not discuss grand jury matters with their family, friends or others. In the same way, they should avoid newspapers, radio, and television broadcasts that may feature accounts of pending grand jury matters. Jurors must base their vote only upon the evidence that is heard in the grand jury room. The opinions or comments that friends, relatives or other outsiders may offer are not evidence. No unauthorized person can communicate with a grand juror about a matter before it, no matter how innocent the reason. If jurors are asked to discuss grand jury matters by persons outside the grand jury room, they should say that the law does not permit them to do so. If anyone persists, it is the duty of the juror to report this to the Court. Violation of the secrecy requirement could subject those persons or the responsible grand juror to a citation for contempt of court.

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By Madonna Pitrucha

In 1995, Diane Marino and I decided to try and serve on a grand jury after being told that belonging to Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) would not prevent us from doing so. We filled out the required paper work and were selected to serve on Judge Doug Shaver's grand jury. Diane was chosen to be an assistant foreman and I was selected as sergeant of arms. We both were excited, but a little scared at the same time. We knew we would take this job very seriously. We first told each other it was best not to tell the other jurors that we were with POMC.

On the first day we did a couple of cases and Diane and I asked a lot of questions of the Assistant District Attorney, which caused the other jurors to really watch us closely. At the end of the day the other jurors asked us how we knew what to ask. The next jury day we decided to tell them we were with POMC and that was why we knew so much about the law and evidence. The foreman immediately left the room and informed Judge Shaver about us. The judge came into the room and told everyone he was proud that we were there. He said it posed no problem, and in fact would be helpful since our job was to determine if there was probable cause for a charge in the cases we reviewed.

Diane and I quickly discovered that the other jurors did not know much about the law. So we had a captive classroom and I assure you by the end of our three months they were all well informed about the law and evidence. At first they really did not want to see the crime scene pictures, but we asked the Assistant District Attorney for them as well as listened to witnesses that wanted to testify. As grand jurors we did not have to listen to witnesses, but like we told the others, wouldn’t you want to testify if your life was on the line? Just because it’s written in black and white, not all things are black and white. Some cases can break your heart while others have your head spinning with amazement. As a grand juror you will hear cases from petty theft to brutal murder.

One day they took us to the morgue for some general research. Some of the jurors chose to learn about DNA while I went with two other jurors to witness an autopsy being performed. You can also go on a ride-along with a police officer to get a feel for what their job is all about.

We served twice a week; Tuesday and Thursday for three months and we were paid $6 for each day we served. Parking is paid for, but the juror is responsible to get his or her own lunch. A typical day starts at 9:00 AM and the day ends when the list of cases for that day is all taken care of. This is typically completed by 3:00 PM. A typical caseload is 6+ cases.

Every case is either true billed, no billed, or sent back to the district attorney for an upgrade or downgrade of charges. True bill allows the case to go forward to trial, and no bill tells the district attorney there is not enough evidence to go to trial.

Some other POMC members have served on grand juries and were disappointed when their foreman hastily sped through the cases without going real deep into the evidence. To limit their service to a half days work they would encourage the jurors to just “true bill” many of the cases. Then there were other day's when some of the jurors didn’t even show up, so they had to end the day early.

I encourage anyone that has the time to spare, to serve on a grand jury. If you get with a good bunch of jurors and take the job seriously, you will have a great sense of accomplishment at the end of your service.

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David founded NEVA (The North Of England Victims' Association) in 1993, following the tragic murder of his daughter Marie. From his own experience, he became aware of the lack of support available to the families of victims of homicide. The aim of NEVA is to provide help and support to the families of murder victims within the North East, to gain recognition of the need for change, and to do this by raising the profile of NEVA.

Change can only be brought about by political will. It is therefore imperative that the significance of the need for such change is heard clearly by those in power. The voices of those campaigning for the rights of victims and their families must be heard.

NEVA feels strongly that funds should be diverted from Victim Support (a government agency) and placed in the hands of those with direct experience in dealing with homicide. A bigger 'slice of the cake', in the form of government funding, must be made available to smaller charities that provide services that Victim Support cannot. v NEVA believes there is a lack of funding available to independent victim organizations who, in the opinion of those whose lives have been tragically affected by homicide, provide valuable support to victim's families that government funded organizations (such as Victim Support) fail to provide.

Why is there such a lack of funding? A comparative study of trusts and organizations specifically interested in funding certain groups provided the following statistics:

Groups Number of Trusts willing to donate
Children 1118
Youths at risk of re-offending 32
Black Ethnic Minorities 24
Ex-offenders 18
Victims 4

These statistics suggest that adult, white, law-abiding victims are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to receiving funding. Statistics also show that there are around 780 homicides in the UK each year. Ministers apply a value and ask 'how cost effective is funding per head?' They like to help organizations that appeal to the vast majority and ask how many other agencies will also benefit from the funding given.

It is evident from these findings that victim organizations, such as NEVA, need to push for a higher profile so that the public recognize and sympathize with victims' objectives. We need to work together co-operatively to demonstrate how effectively funding could be put to use. If the public in general knows nothing about us, how are Ministers to be expected to know?

NEVA has researched what other agencies say about the victims' cause. We rang a penal reform director, who suggested that 'victim's need less funding as their needs are less tangible', i.e. emotional rather than physical. This is untrue, but if others hold this perception then we need to challenge this. Of course, victims need emotional as well as physical support, but we should emphasize the trauma of such victimization and the need for specialized support. The public needs to be aware of the trauma and tragedy that homicide brings so that we gain their support.

The Howard League of Penal Reform has a better understanding of the fact that all victims need recognition and treating with respect and dignity. However, we have heard this for a long time. NEVA suggests identifying exactly what victim's needs actually are. Research must be carried out. Funding is available for research, but we need to marry-up with academics so that findings will be recognized and stand up to scrutiny. If we are to ask for funding for victim's needs from government and other organizations, we should put forward a robust case supported by academic findings. Victim needs might then be recognized as being 'tangible'.

A recent European Survey of Victimology, titled” Victims of Crime in 22 European Criminal Justice Systems (2001), shows that, in contrast to some Continental proceedings where the victim is involved, a victim has no locus standi in British Criminal proceedings. The United Nations advocates that the provision of victim support should not be a monopoly, but in the UK victims have little choice other than Victim Support.

A United Nations Victim Agency Manual has been put together by 32 countries and is available on the Internet titled, UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. The website address is www.victimology.nl. NEVA urges everyone to obtain a copy, as it is a blueprint guide on how to set up and run groups.

The government should foster additional statutory rights for victims. For example, the right to feedback is important to victims. Once a crime is reported, unless it is extraordinary and horrendous, usually nothing more is heard. Every victim should have the right to a named police officer, a named CPS officer and be given written reasons when a charge is reduced or dropped.

When a defendant is found not guilty and a victim wishes to pursue a private prosecution, they presently have to start again from scratch. NEVA suggests that in these cases a private prosecution should have access to existing case files.

Victimology is a new and developing science. A historical evaluation of developments over the last 150 years shows that it is only within the last eleven years that significant progress has been made in identifying the needs of victims. More work is still needed to actually start addressing these needs. NEVA urges victim groups to form a federation and to meet more regularly. We need to support the 'victim's voice'. We have much yet to learn from an advertising and marketing perspective if we are to make that voice heard. Until we relay the message of what the victim's plight actually is, and identify clearly what our needs are, then public empathy to our cause will not kick-in.

NEVA would like to see a 'Victim Justice System' replace the current Criminal Justice System, whereby the needs of victims would be paramount. It is four years since Michael Howard said,” It is wrong that the victim's needs are secondary to the criminal, when are we to gain the recognition that will allow this to happen?”

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The Florida Experiment: Transferring Power from Judges to Prosecutors
By Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg

Anthony Laster is the kind of kid who has never been a danger to anyone. A 15-year-old, eighth grader with an IQ of 58, Anthony is described by relatives as having the mind of a five-year-old. Late last year, a few days after his mother died, Anthony asked another boy in his class at a Florida middle school to give him lunch money, claiming he was hungry. When the boy refused, Anthony reached into his pocket and took $2. That's when Anthony ran smack into Palm Beach County prosecutor Barry Kirscher compassionless conservatism. Rather than handling the case in the principal's office, where it belonged, Mr. Kirscher decided to prosecute Anthony as an adult for what was his first arrest. Anthony spent the next seven weeks-including his first Christmas since his mother died-in custody, much of it in an adult jail. (THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, March 21, 1999.)

Anthony Laster was one of 4,660 youth who Florida prosecutors sent to adult court last year under the wide-ranging powers they enjoy with the state's direct file provisions. Florida is one of 15 states that allow prosecutors-not a judge-to decide whether children arrested for crimes ranging from shoplifting to robbery should be dealt with in the juvenile justice or criminal justice system. Although 43 states have changed their laws since 1993 to make it easier for judges to send children into the adult criminal system, Florida is leading the nation in using prosecutors to make the decision to try children as adults. In 1995 alone, the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., reported that Florida prosecutors sent 7,000 cases to adult court, nearly matching the number of cases judges sent to the criminal justice system nationwide that year.

The story of Florida's experiment in sending thousands of kids to adult court needs to be scrutinized because it is being touted as a model crime control policy. A juvenile crime bill currently being considered by the U.S. Congress (House-Senate Conference Committee) would give U.S. attorneys even greater powers than those enjoyed by prosecutors in Florida. The change in federal law would remove judges from the process of deciding which justice system would serve young people, and transfer that power to the sole discretion of prosecutors. In recent testimony before a House committee, the Justice Department argued that its prosecutors be given expanded powers to try youth as adults in federal court.

In March, Californians voted to give prosecutors similarly wide-ranging discretion to try juveniles 14 and older as adults. Given the current legislative drive on the state and federal level, it is worthwhile to examine the Florida experience to see what the future will hold for the nation.

Offense Category
Who are prosecutors sending to adult court in Florida? The state's juvenile accountability board reports that when prosecutorial waiver was introduced in 1981, the percentage of delinquency cases transferred to adult court in Florida soared from 1.2 percent to nearly 9 percent by 1987. In fiscal year 1997-98, 6,425 of the 94,693 cases disposed of by judicial processing in Florida resulted in transfer to adult court. Although these waiver provisions were originally designed to ensure that violent juvenile offenders were being detained, a 1991 study of two representative Florida counties showed that only 29 percent of the youths prosecutors waived to adult court were accused of violent crimes. Conducted by researchers Donna M. Bishop and Charles Frazier, the study noted that more than half (55 percent) were charged with property offenses that involved no violence; fully 5 percent were tried as adults for misdemeanors. Almost a quarter of the cases waived were first-time, low-level offenders.

Disproportionate Minority Confinement
The most striking feature of Florida's transferred youth population profile is the extent to which minority youth are overrepresented in the ranks of juveniles being referred to adult court. One study conducted by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice found that black juveniles were 2.3 times more likely than white youths to be transferred in Florida. Even though nonwhites account for 24 percent of the 10- to 17-year-old age bracket in the state, they currently represent 74 percent of those in that age bracket held in the Florida prison system. "I think the way the system sets up programs shows some institutional bias," one candid Florida prosecutor commented to researchers.

Policy Impact in Florida
Although some have suggested that huge numbers of children are being held in adult facilities across the state, it is not clear that youths going to adult court via prosecutorial waiver are serving especially long sentences. The 1991 study by Bishop and Frazier found that, of the juveniles who were incarcerated after disposition, half received short sentences, some shorter than they would have received in the juvenile justice system. The majority (54 percent) of those sentenced to prison were released within three years. A more recent survey by the same authors showed that a majority of young people prosecutors sent to adult court for property, drug, and weapons offenses received jail sentences or probation terms well within the range of what could have been prescribed to them in the juvenile court. The same study showed that in 1995, 61 percent of the youth found guilty in adult court were incarcerated, but only 31 percent were prison terms.

More Go To Jail
Although it might be expected that prosecutorial waiver would reduce the number of youths being funneled into Florida's juvenile justice system, the opposite has been true. Between 1993 and 1998, the number of annual commitments to Florida's juvenile justice system increased by 85 percent despite its liberal use of waiver to adult court. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Florida has the sixth highest incarceration rate for youth per 100,000 in the nation, and detains young people at a rate 25 percent greater than the national average. This happened during a time when the number of waiver cases was increasing, and the number of felony referrals to the juvenile justice system was decreasing. It's happening, despite the fact that youths waived to adult court are held before trial in adult jails, further reducing the numbers that would need to be held in juvenile detention. Rather than the happy prospect of devoting more resources in the juvenile justice system to fewer youths, the system has widened its "net of control" by committing youth for lower level offenses.

Recidivism: A Taste For Crime
A number of studies have shown that youth sent to adult court generally recidivate at a higher rate than they do if they are sent to the juvenile justice system. A series of studies by Bishop and Frazier in Florida have analyzed what happens to youth referred to adult court-90 percent of whom are referred there directly by a prosecutor. A study they published in the journal Crime and Delinquency showed that youth transferred to adult court in Florida were three times more likely to reoffend than those sent to the juvenile justice system. While some in the comparison juvenile detention group also reoffended, those transferred to adult court were rearrested much sooner than those sent to juvenile detention, thus reducing their chance to get grounded in the community for rehabilitation. Of those who committed new crimes, the youths who had previously been tried as adults committed serious crimes at double the rate of those sent to juvenile court.

A 1997 study by the same authors showed similar rearrest rates for transferred and non-transferred "property offenders," but youths sent to prison and jail were still rearrested more quickly then their counterparts in the juvenile justice system, and for far more serious offenses than property crimes. The very fact that there are "similarly paired youth"-youth convicted of property offenses and other comparable crime categories-in both jail and deep-end juvenile detention demonstrates the arbitrariness of prosecutorial transfer in Florida.

Youths In Deep-End Juvenile Programs
In a 1998 report prepared for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Bishop and Frazier conducted in-depth interviews with 50 youths sent to prison by Florida prosecutors, versus 50 who were sent to a state "maximum risk" juvenile detention facility. The study narrative showed that the youths themselves recognized the rehabilitative strengths of the juvenile justice system in contrast to the adult prison system. (See Juvenile Transfers to Criminal Court Study: Phase I (1998).)

Sixty percent of the sample sent to juvenile detention said they expect they would not reoffend, 30 percent said they were uncertain whether they would reoffend, while 3 percent said they would likely reoffend. Of those expected not to reoffend, 90 percent said good juvenile justice programming and services were the reason for their rehabilitation. Only one individual in juvenile detention said he was learning new ways to commit crimes. Most reported at least one favorable contact with a staff person who helped them. As such, the juvenile justice system responses were overwhelmingly positive.

This place is all about rehabilitation and counseling. . . . This place here, we have people to listen to when you have something on your mind . . . and need to talk. They understand you and help you.

They helped me know how to act. I never knew any of this stuff. That really helped me, 'cause I ain't had too good a life.

By contrast, 40 percent of the transferred youth said they were learning new ways to commit crimes in prison. Most reported that the guards and staff in prisons were indifferent, hostile, and showed little care for them. Only a third of the juveniles in prison said they expected not to reoffend. Not surprisingly, those sent to prison by prosecutors responded in an overwhelmingly despondent and negative way.

When I was in juvenile programs, they were telling me that I am somebody and that I can change my ways, and get back on the right tracks. In here, they tell me I am nobody and I never will be anybody.

In the juvenile systems, the staff and I were real close. They wanted to help me. They were hopeful for me. Here, they think I am nothing but a convict now.

Crime Control Impact: Crime Rate
Despite having prosecutorial waiver on the books since 1981, Florida has the second highest overall violent crime rate of any state in the country, and that status has remained virtually unchanged throughout the 1990s. According to the latest available data from the Justice Department, Florida's violent juvenile crime rate is somewhere between 48-57 percent higher than the national average. In 1998, Florida had the second highest violent juvenile crime arrest rate-a distinction it has carried throughout the 1990s.

Though Florida leads the nation in using prosecutorial waiver, the other 14 states that allow state's attorneys discretion to send juveniles to criminal court do not fare much better. Of the states that currently employ prosecutorial waiver provisions, four (Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts, Louisiana) and the District of Columbia) are among the 10 with the highest violent crime arrest rate (age 10-17). While the rest of the nation enjoyed a decline in juvenile crime between 1992 and 1996, five of the states that employ prosecutorial waiver-Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona, Virginia, and New Hampshire-actually experienced an increase in their violent juvenile crime rates.

Risks To Juveniles In Adult Jails
The children whom prosecutors are sending to adult court in Florida face greater threats to their life, limb, and future well-being when they enter Florida's adult jail and prison systems. These well-documented risks affect both the youths who are convicted in adult court, and those (like Anthony Laster) who are merely being held in pretrial detention for crimes for which they may later be exonerated.

A study conducted by New York researcher Jeffrey Fagan shows that youths are five times more likely to report being a victim of rape when they are held in an adult facility versus juvenile detention. The same study showed that juveniles in adult jails are also twice as likely to report being beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon. A Justice Department study done in 1981 showed that the suicide rate of juveniles in adult jails is 7.7 times higher than that of youth in juvenile detention centers.

The Will Of The People?
A 1998 survey published in the journal Crime and Delinquency found that a majority of Americans oppose changing federal law to allow for prosecutorial waiver of youth to adult court. When asked, "Would you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly that federal prosecutors should have total discretion to try juveniles as adults for all felonies?" 56 percent of a nationally representative sample of Americans disagreed or disagreed strongly with the idea (41 percent agreed, and 3 percent said they had no opinion). Nearly twice as many respondents were strongly opposed to the idea compared to those who strongly supported it (29 percent versus 16 percent).

As the United States Congress and states around the country weigh various approaches to curbing juvenile crime, the "Florida Experiment" of giving prosecutors broad discretion to decide whether juveniles should be tried as adults has come under serious consideration. On almost every measure examined in this report-statewide crime control, individual recidivism, racial equity and the juveniles' own perception of future offense behavior-the Florida system of prosecutorial discretion waiver was found wanting.

Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg are director and senior policy analyst, respectively, for the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that promotes alternatives to incarceration. See www.cjcj.org for more information.

Taken from the Spring 2000 Criminal Justice Magazine; Vol. 15, Issue 1. Copyrighted © The American Bar Association. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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We ask you to please write a protest letter to keep Christopher Appleby in Jail.

On December 24th, 1999 Tom and June Menard were driving home on highway 288 from a family Christmas gathering. Their four children were ahead in the oldest son's car. Tom and June were hit from behind by a speeding (100 MPH) drunk driver. The truck flipped end over end and rolled several times before coming to rest on the passenger side of the truck. June Menard was trapped underneath the truck and died at the scene. Tom Menard was taken by life flight helicopter to Memorial Hospital in Houston.

While all of this was going on, Christopher Appleby had ran away from the scene and then came back trying to mix into the gathering crowd as if nothing had happened. In July 2001 Christopher Appleby was sentenced to 10 years in TDC for intoxicated manslaughter. Appleby is having a parole review that is to be complete by September 7th, 2002. This would mean he served 14 months of a 10 year sentence.

Thank You,
Tom Menard and Family of June Menard

 DOWNLOAD protest letter in Microsoft Word format where you can then add your name and the current date.

Please email, fax or mail a copy of your protest letter today.

On October 24, 1999, Myral Niemtschk viscously shot 65 year-old Sam Cleveland while Mr. Cleveland was standing outside his own home. As a result of this senseless act, Mr. Cleveland has lost total use of his left arm. He and his wife enjoyed preparing the ground to grow their own garden. They enjoy using wood heat and chopping their own firewood. Mr. Cleveland was an avid sportsman. He loved playing his guitar. Above all, he loved hugging his grandchildren. Since being shot and catastrophically injured by Niemtschk, the lives of Mr. Cleveland and his family have been dramatically altered. Since being shot, he can no longer do many of the simple things in life that gave him joy. In addition, Mr. Cleveland's hospital bills were well over $600,000. He has recently had to undergo additional surgeries for his injuries.

Myral Niemtschk was allowed to plead guilty to aggravated assault. This plea bargain gave Niemtschk only 3-years TDCJ time. Already he is up for parole review. Mr. Cleveland and his family are still struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy within the limitations of their new life. Yet Niemtschk is eligible to be paroled with the luxury of beginning a new life unharmed.

Please help us keep this violent person in prison where he belongs.

 DOWNLOAD protest letter in Microsoft Word format where you can then add your name and the current date.

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This is a tribute to 15 of the 87 women killed by intimate male partners in Texas in the year 2000. We will list the remaining victims in future newsletters.

Kendy Palma, 24, Houston
Kendy was found shot in the apartment she shared with Alex Erazo, 27, on October 23, 2000. He was charged with murder.

Michelle Marie Parks, 27, Arlington
Robby Scott Fowler, 35, told his family he was devastated that Michelle would no longer date him, but no one believed that the outcome of their breakup would result in two deaths. On the afternoon of May 19, 2000, Robby rented a car, followed Michelle to a mall parking lot, and shot her in the head. He then ran back to his car and killed himself with the same gun.

Cynthia Paige Price, 35, Crowley
Cynthia's three daughters heard their parents arguing over money and the plans for a birthday party as they went to sleep the night of September 27, 2000. The girls woke up late the next morning perplexed about why their mother didn't get them up for school. The master bedroom was locked so the 14-year-old peeked in the window and saw the bodies of Cynthia and William Price on the floor. Investigators believe William shot Cynthia and then himself.

Roxanne Rangel, San Juan
Roxanne's body was found wrapped in blankets and sheets in a Reynosa colonia. Police charged her husband, Pedro Castillo, Jr., 33, with shooting her in their San Juan home on October 26, 2000.

Adela Rodriguez, 36, Laredo
For two years before she was killed, Adela and her five children lived in a car and struggled to get enough to eat. She was repeatedly beaten by her ex-husband, Javier Rodriguez, 36. In the early morning of November 1, 2000, Javier twice tried to force his way into Adela's sister's house, where she was staying. He was successful when he returned the third time, armed with a .30 caliber M-1 rifle. He beat his ex-wife in the presence of his children and Adela's family, then shot her to death. Then he shot himself in the head, in an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Minerva Rodriguez, 50, Denton
Minerva and Domingo Rodriguez, 60, were married for more than 35 years, but had recently separated. Minerva moved into her daughter's house. On May 8, 2000, Domingo called and asked Minerva to come over. When she did not return, her daughter became concerned and went to her father's house. She found both parents dead of gunshot wounds. Investigators believe Domingo killed Minerva and then himself.

Herlinda Cabrera Romero, 35, Houston
Herlinda's husband, Carlos Coria Aguirre, 27, told police he was loading his pistol when it went off and shot her in the head. Investigators determined that he had been drinking. Herlinda died after giving birth. Her premature infant also died.

Terri Roney, 40, Garland
Police found Terri and her husband Harold Roney, 41, shot to death in their van on a north Dallas street just past noon on April 14, 2000. The gun was still in Harold's hand.

Rebecca Sabrsula, 33, Fort Bend County
Rebecca left home after an argument with her husband at about 11:30 p.m. on November 18, 2000. David Sabrsula, 39, followed her in his vehicle, pulled up beside her, and shot her once with a rifle. David returned home and called the police.

Veronica Sanchez, 22, Austin
Veronica was found beaten and unconscious in her North Austin apartment on August 3, 2000. Police charged Juan Reza Ortiz, 38 in her death.

Joni Sanders, aka Joni James Bumgarner, 37, Marshall
With Joni's help, Larry Sharp, 42, got out of jail on March 3, 2000, where he was serving time for attacking her with a box knife. One of the conditions of his probation was that he have no contact with Joni. But on the night of March 11, he is suspected of setting fire to Joni's mother's house in Jefferson, Texas and setting out for Vivian, Louisiana where Joni was visiting her new boyfriend's mother. He walked into the kitchen and shot her twice with a shotgun, then got in his truck and drove away. Deputies found Larry in the truck a while later with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He survived and was charged with murder.

Dorotha Savoy, 57, Richardson
Stephen Savoy, 53, told a neighbor he needed immediate police assistance around 7:00 p.m. on April 9, 2000. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Steven and his wife of 22 years, Dorotha, injured from gunshot wounds. Steven was treated and released, but Dorotha was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Grace Smith, 65, Richland Hills
Roscoe Pyatt, 78, drove his recreational vehicle to Grace's house at least four times a year, and she visited him occasionally at his home in Wichita Falls. They'd known each other for 10 years, and Roscoe wanted to marry but Grace did not. On January 5, 2000, Roscoe shot Grace inside his RV, then walked into the house and called police. Two handwritten journals found at the scene indicated that Roscoe had planned to kill Grace for quite a while.

Janice Collins Smith, 36, Houston
Janice was shot by her estranged husband, 36, as she drove into her apartment complex. Her 12 year-old son was in the car with her. The gunman turned himself in 90 minutes after the shooting.

Barbara Lynn Stewart, 42, Houston
Barbara's body has never been found, but her boyfriend, Dennis James Jaggers, 48, admitted killing her with an overdose of cocaine in the spring of 2000.

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