Ohio lawmakers’ decision to eliminate the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission also killed – for now – the reform of some grand jury proceedings. Proponents had hoped the proposals would make the grand jury process more transparent and accountable.
The committee reviewing Ohio’s grand jury process voted 7-1 – twice – to recommend two big changes. The first would have amended the Ohio Constitution to provide an independent legal adviser to grand juries.
Committee chair Janet Gilligan Abaray says that would have returned grand juries to the days when judges were more involved and prosecutors had less power.
“This would have had a person in the grand jury room who is really the eyes and the ears of the court," Abaray says. "And it also means there’s some accountability now that the prosecutor knows that there is a neutral observer here who’s informed in the law. “
But the proposal ran into resistance from prosecutors. So did a proposal that would have allowed defense attorneys to review transcripts of grand jury testimony but only when that witness is also planning to testify in open court.
Gilligan Abaray says the only path now open for the changes would be for a citizen-led referendum to amend the Ohio Constitution.