Last Thursday, a 29-year-old Baton Rouge woman was indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder stemming from shootings that took place in February. Police and prosecutors claim that the woman shot a 51-year-old man, stole his bike and rode it a few blocks, and then fatally shot a 55-year-old man. The first man, who was apparently shot in the shoulder, survived. According to police, the defendant and the two men had been in a fight earlier in the day, though sources didn’t indicate the nature of the argument or how the parties knew one another.
The East Baton Rouge grand jury charged the defendant on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder. The charges are very serious, as a second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence.
A grand jury, as our readers may know, is a body of 12 people appointed with the task of determining whether there is enough evidence for a person to be brought to trial.
Two things should be kept in mind about grand juries. The first is that the prosecution is in control of them. Any defensive evidence presented to the grand jury has to be approved by the prosecutor, and grand juries do not have to hear defensive evidence. Also, a prosecutor can present evidence to a grand jury which may not actually be admissible at trial.
The second point follows from the first, and that is that an indictment shouldn’t be seen as anything more than it is: charges brought against a defendant, based on the prosecution’s evidence. It is not a conviction, and defendants can bring evidence to trial which dramatically changes the story prosecutors have presented to the grand jury.
Source: The Advocate, “Woman faces murder charge in death,” April 27, 2012.