Mysterious grand jury report revealed
August 11, 2002
At last, the mystery is revealed.
A Carson City grand jury report, apparently deemed by judges to be too sensitive for the eyes of the taxpaying public, was published Friday by the Nevada Appeal.
It finally saw the light of day two years after the grand jury was convened.
And what in the report was so extraordinarily delicate that it could not be shared with the rest of us?
— That law enforcement personnel, from clerks to deputies to attorneys to judges, could use more up-to-date training?
— That the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department need a better system of tracking cases?
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— Response times should be logged by the Sheriff’s Department?
— The Sheriff’s Department should implement random drug-testing?
— The Board of Supervisors should fund a one-time performance evaluation of the Sheriff’s Department?
This is hardly the kind of stuff that might jeopardize national security. In fact, all the juicy details were already reported months ago when the Nevada Appeal printed the actual transcripts of testimony to the grand jury. The report is tame compared to the transcripts.
And despite indications the report was quashed because it went outside the scope of the intended investigation, these are exactly the kind of recommendations one would expect from a conscientious group of grand jurors.
They spent three months delving into what went wrong in a case in which a private citizen, Rolland “Ron” Weddell, believed the response from law enforcement was so inadequate to an attempted assault on an employee that he took matters into his own hands. He attempted a citizen’s arrest, fired shots in a neighborhood and ended up getting arrested himself.
It was not a simple case, and it took a Nevada Supreme Court reversal of a Carson City district judge’s ruling to decide the central question of whether Weddell had the right to use force in a citizen’s arrest. The high court said no.
In the course of its investigation, Carson City grand jurors heard testimony they believed contributed to confusion, inefficiency and incompetence in the handling of the Weddell case. Their recommendations reflect their concerns.
But taxpayers — who paid upwards of $60,000 for the grand jury investigation — were told they had no business reading those recommendations. Why? In the only glimpse into his reasoning, Las Vegas District Judge Mark Gibbons at one point said in a hearing they appeared to be “cheap shots politically taken at people for no reason versus real constructive suggestions.”
We have faith in the public to make their own judgments between cheap political shots and constructive suggestions. That’s why the Nevada Appeal published the previously secret report.
And our reading of the report shows it to be nothing but constructive criticism of public officials. Could the real reason for withholding the report be that, as official recommendations from a grand jury, someone might be compelled to act? To respond? To be held accountable?
We thank the Carson City residents who took the time to serve as grand jurors. They took their responsibilities seriously, and they acted in what they believed were the best interests of the community.
Now that the report has been made public by the Nevada Appeal, we demand that it also be released formally. It’s time for our elected officials to act. To respond. To be held accountable.