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Mistrial by Jury?

Grand Jury Member Says Process Is Biased

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A grand juror serving in Portland between September 10 and October 11—at the same time the James Chasse Jr. in-police-custody death case was presented to the Multnomah County Grand Jury—has told the Mercury, "the process is biased."

"The official story from the district attorney is, 'we want you to question things,'" says the grand juror, who did not sit on the Chasse case. "But you don't have to be a genius to feel the pressure on you to rubber stamp the district attorney's decision."

"Of the grand jurors in my room, all of them were very sympathetic to the police," she says. Her fellow grand jurors occasionally discussed the Chasse case. "I did not hear much sympathy for Chasse. They said things like, 'Well, you know, the police don't know how violent the person is' and 'It's a hard job being a police officer.'

"I don't see myself as a cop hater," she continues. "In fact, many of the cops and the [people in the office of the] district attorney seem like very nice people. But I can't believe the process is fair."

The juror, a part-time office worker who has asked to remain anonymous, served in the room next door to where the Chasse case was presented. In one month, her seven-person jury reviewed around 180 cases to decide whether or not they should head to trial.

"I don't say this as someone who thinks every cop is a monster, in fact I think some of the more unhinged people on Indymedia can get a little out of control about that," the grand juror added. "But as a friend of mine said, having a district attorney try a cop is like having a spouse try a spouse. They spend six days of the week in bed together—developing this close working relationship—and then on the seventh day they have to pretend they're not married."

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk takes issue with that assessment. "The spouse trying a spouse analogy is unfair. We have prosecuted police, and we're in fact one of the police department's harshest critics." Schrunk also said he wished the Mercury had spoken with a member of the Chasse Grand Jury—he said the jurors were told they were free to comment. However, their names are kept confidential.

At the Tuesday, October 17 press conference following the Grand Jury's verdict not to indict the three officers involved in Chasse's death, the victim's brother, Mark Chasse, told journalists he could not see how the current system could be fair either to his dead brother, or to the cops themselves.

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