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2 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 289 (2004-2005)
Appointed but (Nearly) Prevented from Serving: My Experiences as a Grand Jury Foreperson

handle is hein.journals/osjcl2 and id is 295 raw text is: Appointed but (Nearly) Prevented From Serving:
My Experiences as a Grand Jury Foreperson
Phyllis L. Crocker*
In summer 2003, I was a grand jury foreperson for the Cuyahoga County
Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, Ohio. The service of this grand jury, and
my tenure as foreperson, were unique in the annals of grand juries. We were
selected and sworn in the same manner as any grand jury, but heard cases for only
one day of our four-month term-the last day. In the interim, the prosecutor filed
cases in two courts, seeking to discharge us, as being tainted by our supervising
judge's initial instructions about our duties and the law.
I begin this essay with basic information about grand juries, then tell what
happened to our grand jury, and conclude by reflecting on what I learned from this
experience. My theme is the tension between the grand jury's independence and
the prosecutor's desire to control it. The lesson I learned, intellectually and
emotionally, is the depth and tenacity of the prosecutor's assumption that he does
control, and has the right to control, the grand jury process. I also learned some
lessons about being a client, and believing in oneself and one's principles.
A grand jury is an independent legal body charged with deciding whether an
individual within the jurisdiction of the court will be indicted, i.e., formally
charged with committing a felony. Every grand jury has a foreperson; in Ohio, the
supervising judges select forepersons.1 Traditionally, grand jury forepersons are
community leaders, such as ministers, doctors, or teachers.  They are not
necessarily knowledgeable in the law, but knowledge of the law is not prohibited.
Lawyers may serve as forepersons, as may law professors. Still, when I told
friends and colleagues that I had been appointed foreperson, the general reaction
was, You can't do that! You know too much! What I think they meant was that
I was too criminal-defense oriented: I teach criminal law courses and I have
represented men on death row in Texas in their post-conviction appeals.
Nonetheless, other law professors had also served as grand jury forepersons,
including a Case Western University School of Law professor who co-authored the
* Visiting Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law, Associate Professor of
Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. J.D., 1985, Northeastern University School of Law. I am
grateful to Judge Burt W. Griffin for asking me to serve as a grand jury foreperson. I thank Susan
Becker, Jeffrey Alan Coryell, Kathleen Engel, Daniel J. Givelber, Jack Guttenberg, and Margery
Koosed for commenting on prior versions of this essay.
OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 2939.02 (Anderson 2004).


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