Thursday, February 21, 2013

Looking at the Grand Jury Process in Indiana through Dan Brewington's Case.

Links to the grand jury transcripts posted below.

Dan Brewington’s case originated with a Grand Jury called by Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard. Dan was notified that he was the target of a grand jury investigation just 5 days after receiving notice that a complaint he had filed against Prosecutor Negangard the previous July, 2010, had been dismissed.

On Sunday, February 3, 2013 Virginia Black wrote an article in the South Bend Tribune “Little Understood Grand Jury System Under Debate.  On Monday, February 4, 2013 The Indiana Law Blog posted a summary of her article.

 A few of the points:

1.      Everything surrounding a grand jury -- the subjects, the testimony and even the grand jurors' identities -- is considered secret, with violators of those secrets facing potential misdemeanor criminal charges.

2.      That, and the fact that grand jury operation is weighted heavily in the prosecution's favor, has compelled state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, to introduce a bill to the General Assembly for the second year in a row that would eliminate the use of grand juries.

3.      If a grand jury chooses to pass down indictments -- which, because the prosecution has so much leeway, often happens, he said -- it can put more pressure on a defendant to plead guilty, and then the public is kept in the dark about what the facts of the case are.

4.      "If you're a target, or a prosecutor has their sights on you, it's a very, very different, almost undemocratic situation, that you're almost guilty until proven innocent," Delph said. "We should allow public juries to rule the day."

5.      "An individual charged with breaking the law should be charged with breaking the law," Delph said, "but it should be done in an honest, forthright way."

6.      Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defenders Council, said his organization supports abolishing grand juries or at least shoring up the rights of defendants in the process.

7.      And if someone is indicted, that defendant has no right to transcripts from the grand jury unless a judge orders them unsealed, he said, although the prosecutor has access to them.

8.      The standard of proof is lower for a grand jury indictment than for a verdict in open court, but "for the public, it looks like, 'Well, he must be guilty,' " Landis said. "The name itself (grand jury) has status, prestige."

Dan Brewington’s case out of Dearborn County, Indiana might be helpful because the grand jury transcripts were released. Dan, who was incarcerated at the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center on $500,000 surety plus $100,000 cash (March 11, 2011) was presented with a complete copy of the Grand Jury transcripts on September 23, 2011, just 10 days before his trial started. Dan's perjury charge stems from his grand jury testimony. It is evident from reading the testimony that Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard asked Dan a question, cut him off before he could finish his answer, then charged him with perjury on Dan’s incomplete answer. In another part of the Grand jury transcripts Judge James D. Humphrey informed the grand jury that “I know the first amendment and this goes way beyond that” thereby serving as an expert witness and a victim. Prosecutor Negangard brought up a handgun (a gun Dan was legally permitted to carry) and proceeded to reference the gun or gun issues over 100 times in the grand jury when Dan was not charged with anything to do with a gun. He was a blogger with no prior criminal history and no issues of violence in his entire life. Negangard told the Grand Jury that in Indiana the only way you could lose your concealed carry permit was to be convicted of a felony. Also, Dearborn County Sheriff Mike Kreinhop told the grand jury that Dan filed more motions during his divorce than murderers file. Why would a Sheriff be testifying to the number of motions filed in any case?

Dan represented himself in his divorce case and was critical of the family court system Judge, James D. Humphrey and the Kentucky based custody evaluator, used by Dearborn County, Edward Connor.  Dan had a perfect record of child care for 2 ½ years during the divorce and 2 ½ months after the final hearing in the divorce and yet Judge James D. Humphrey took away all Dan’s visitation rights to his 3 ½  and 5 ½ yr old daughters, who were currently seeing him as much as 4-5 times a week, including overnights.

Special Judge Brian D. Hill, Rush County, released the grand jury transcripts at the Final Pre-Trial Hearing, September 19, 2011.

Grand Jury Transcript Links for Dan's Case


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