Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams
Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams

From the office of
State Sen. Sandra Williams
D-Cleveland

In a hand-delivered letter to Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and other Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as the Constitutional Modernization Committee, State Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) is urging the Ohio Supreme Court to abolish the grand jury process in Ohio.

“Many constituents in my district and across the state have expressed concerns with the lack of transparency in the grand jury process,” said Senator Williams.

“I share their sentiment and strongly encourage the Ohio Supreme Court to consider utilizing the preliminary hearing process as the primary measure to indict the accused.”

Senator Williams cites recent cases in Beavercreek, Ohio, Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., where grand juries declined to indict police for the killings of John Crawford, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively, as evidence of how insufficient the grand jury system has become.

She also strongly encourages the newly established Ohio Modernization Commission to review the grand jury process to determine its effectiveness, and added, "if we continue to use the grand jury process, to consider making recommendations on how the procedure can be made less secretive and more transparent."

Senator Williams also made this a recommendation to the Governor Kasich’s Task Force on Community-Police Relations, where she served as a member.

The Ohio Constitution grants control over many court processes, including the role and function of grand juries, to the Ohio Supreme Court, preventing grand jury elimination by legislative enactment.

Senator Williams has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to consider the following:

• Abolish the grand jury process and replace it with a preliminary hearing process.

If the abolishment of the grand jury process is not feasible, require all grand jury testimony to be subject to public record.

• Require the court stenographer to be appointed by the presiding judge and not the prosecutor’s office.

“Transparency is the main objective to this reform,” said Williams. “I want a judiciary system that is fair for all Ohioans.

"It is important to Ohioans that we have an indictment process that can be conducted in open court where the victims, defendants, public, and media can all be present to hear the evidence as presented.”

To read Senator William’s letter to the Ohio Supreme Court in its entirety go to: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/83058efadac7fd9d118aa89ee/files/Letter_to_Supreme_Court_Justices.pdf

State Sen. Sandra Williams, who represents Ohio's 21st Senate District, is currently serving her first term in the Ohio Senate. She is a native of Cleveland, where she attended Cleveland Public Schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in political science with a minor in criminal justice, and has a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Tiffin University. She has spent more than two decades in public service – as a corrections officer, probation and parole officer, mediator for the State of Ohio, legislative aide, State Representative, and in her current role as a state senator. She also served as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and was honorably discharged in 1995.