What is a Grand Jury Presentment?


I found this in the comments section of the PennLive article about McQueary saying he didn't just turn and run, by a commenter named MediaConsumer.  I've been wanting to write something like this the last week, but I figured this is better and more concise than I'm capable of producing, so I'd just copy and paste.

May I suggest people understand the word "summary". Hopefully readers will take the time to understand that the 23 page Grand Jury report "summarizes" the 3 years of the grand jury investigation. It is not appropriate to expect that a "summary" includes all of the details of such a lengthy investigation.


It seems it may also serve to understand the intent of the Grand Jury. A Grand Jury does not "convict" people of crimes. Approach varies by state but a Grand Jury generally has more members than a trial jury and is focused on hearing the outcomes of investigations to decide if there is enough evidence to "indict" an individual. The Attorney General then reviews the Grand Jury findings and proceeds accordingly based on the laws of their state.

In the US, those charged of a crime enter a plea in which they admit guilt or declare innocence. Based on this plea and other factors, the legal system can then proceed to trial. In the US, we as citizens are presumed innocent until we face trial and convicted by "a jury of our peers".

This legal approach is designed to protect our individual and collective freedom and is referred to as "due process." In any situation, as in this one, there is an expectation that the media "report the facts" to the public at large. Unfortunately, the modern media has become much more about "telling stories" than "reporting facts". The media is a "commercial" concern, not a regulatory or governmental concern, and therefore "reports facts" and "tells stories" which are in the best interest of their commercial charge which is to generate profits.

It is our responsibility as citizens to understand the facts in this and any other "story" the press communicates. With regard to trials, the only time we as citizens have a voice in anyone's guilt or innocence is when we sit on a jury. The media, however, has an extremely loud and influential voice with regard to public opinion because they tell stories every day and, in modern times, are involved in many more "opinion pieces" than "reports of fact".


As in any consumer situation - "buyer beware". Some members of the press have stated that "in this horrific case, due process just doesn't matter." Beware of such anarchist statements. Don't let the press gain even more power than they already have. Due process is one of the fundamental concepts that defines our freedom.


Here's what I'll add.  


1. The Attorney General does all they can to AVOID putting details in the presentment.  The more testimony they include, the more substance it gives the defense attorney to attack and discredit.  If the presentment is not the "bare minimum" required (phrase of the week), they're doing it wrong.

2. It does no one any good to parse language in the presentment, unless that language has quotation marks around it.  An anonymous commenter there said something I've heard elsewhere:


Yeh, the grand jury report states "The graduate student was shocked but noticed both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught."

The words "left immediately" pretty much says that the graduate student did not stay long enough to stop it, but left immediately.


The words "left immediately" were used by whoever wrote the summary.  Perhaps they didn't feel it necessary to include exactly what action McQueary took in their summary, since it has very little to do with the charges, and might give Sandusky's defense team more substance to try to impeach McQueary at trial.  Maybe they never even asked that question.  Maybe they just made a poor choice of words.  Either way, assuming that because it says he "left immediately" that means that he took no action whatsoever belies a pretty fatal misunderstanding of exactly what you're working with.

This principle also applies to exactly what McQueary told anyone else he reported to, and exactly which authorities he spoke to.  We don't know.  We really don't. I know a lot of people have paid lip service to this idea, but people generally seem to nod to this fact much in the same way that they treat anything that comes after the phrase "having said that."



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