Hundreds of cases in question after felon served as grand jury foreperson

Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:50pm

Updated: 1:40 p.m.

The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing hundreds of cases from 2011 after it was discovered two weeks ago that Eugene Grayer, an appointed grand jury foreperson, was a convicted felon. A felony conviction is a disqualification from serving on the grand jury — and now the criminal cases involved with his term could be subject to appeal.

“This is clearly, however this turns out, is a bad situation, I don’t think there’s any question about it,” said District Attorney Torry Johnson. “But it happened, and we’re in the situation of saying we’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. ... It’s still too early to say just how dramatic this will be.”

During Grayer’s grand jury session, more than 900 true indictments were returned (meaning charges were filed against defendants). Of those, about 800 cases were resolved, mostly via guilty pleas from defendants. Roughly 90 cases from Grayer’s term in 2011 are still pending in court.

“Those cases ... are the ones we’ve spent the most time identifying and taking corrective action,” Johnson said. The corrective measures include sending cases back to the current grand jury for a new review.

Johnson said the impact could cover a “broad spectrum.” The Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals could send all of the cases back to court — what Johnson called a “worst case scenario.” Johnson also said that cases could be retried only if a defendant was able to show prejudice due to Grayer’s status as a convicted felon.

“That will be a matter of litigation, I’m sure, over the next several months,” Johnson said. “We’re only limited by the imagination of defense lawyers as to what they can claim.”

The case came to the DA’s attention when an employee was combing through files two weeks ago. The employee spotted Grayer’s name on a 2010 letter from the state saying that he had been denied a hand-gun permit due to his felony conviction. The employee recognized Grayer’s name and brought it to Johnson’s attention.

Grayer was convicted of an attempt to commit a felony after scheming to commit theft.

Johnson said Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins, who appointed Grayer, was “very surprised” to learn that Grayer had a felony conviction. Judges personally choose the foreperson, while the 12-member grand jury gets selected after a background check.

“We do not and have not done [background checks] on forepersons ... we just assumed that they — the judge — would determine whether they were qualified,” Johnson said.

Background checks will now be done on grand jury forepersons, Johnson said.

 

11 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 1/31/13 at 3:46

Mr Candler: Please don't apply for job as Jury Foreman (In Tenn) while running for
your sure to win congressional seat out there in CA.

I'm not surprised that a felon was appointed Grand Jury Foreman. What I would like
to know more about is what the Judge used as info (insider, kinship, or otherwise) in
deciding he should be the foreman. We're lucky he was discovered this soon, as often
these foremen have been left in that position for years straight almost as full time
employees of the DA's office.

By: ancienthighway on 1/31/13 at 5:45

Curious definition of "soon", govskeptic. "During Grayer’s grand jury session, more than 900 true indictments were returned (meaning charges were filed against defendants)." It sounds like the error wasn't discovered until after Grayer was no longer serving on the grand jury: "The corrective measures include sending cases back to the current grand jury for a new review."

Do our courts not initiate criminal background checks on our jurists?

By: Shadow63 on 1/31/13 at 11:12

Imbeciles, imbeciles, and more imbeciles.

By: Loner on 2/1/13 at 7:03

Idiots!

By: rickmuz on 2/1/13 at 8:15

I am with GOVSKEPTIC on this one... you don't "apply" for grand jury duty, you are appointed by the District Attorney General and the chief Judge of the General Sessions court and you should be vetted before that appointment.

By: Gower Mills on 2/1/13 at 8:24

I am trying to figure out why the District Attorney is even going to bother wasting tax payer dollars on this. I served on the Grand Jury in 2008 and the Grand Jury Foreman does not even vote for a True or No-True bill in any of the cases, unless for some wild reason it is a tied vote. We went through over 1,200 cases in our 3 month tenure. So, I just hope they chill out. Also, I have served in regular jury duty in the past and just seeing some of the people that shows up for jury duty, it surprises the (you know what) out of me that they are not convicted felons also. No disrespect intended.

Gower Mills

By: rickmuz on 2/1/13 at 8:35

@Gower, it's simple the law states you CANNOT serve if you are a convicted felon. There is the whole issue of transparency and integrity of the system. He may not vote but that surely does not mean he cannot influence other that do vote.

By: Gower Mills on 2/1/13 at 8:43

I agree, but I hope it doesn't go overboard and start costing a lot more to retry these folks who did the crimes....

Gower Mills

By: Jughead on 2/1/13 at 9:48

Free Manti Te'o!

By: sonny1024 on 2/1/13 at 11:13

WE have always had the same grand jury foreman for years the only time they pick a new one if the old one dies or doesn't want it because of medical problems.Also, we have all heard a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich well its true whatever the police tells the jury they swallow hook line and Sinker that need to be changed and also the Forman shouldn't be allowed to tell the members who to indict and not to indict it does go own at least in my county it does BUT I forget this is TENN.

By: joe41 on 2/1/13 at 4:12

I think that the judges ought to cover the cost of their mistake, not us taxpayers. There is this case in Knoxville where the judge was taking drugs. Convicting the killers cost $1 million the first time and it is likely to cost the same on re trial. People need to pay for their mistakes, not the taxpayer.

Joe