Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grand Jury Meeting To Decide Melissa Huckaby’s Fate

~Huckaby booking photo

As expected, the secret grand jury convened Monday and is expected to last two weeks. The grand jury will hear the evidence in the kidnapping, rape and murder of young Sandra Cantu.

Huckaby’s preliminary hearing in open court was scheduled for September. The grand jury hearing takes the place of the preliminary hearing and shields the alleged motive and cause of Sandra’s death from the public.

It is the grand jury that will ultimately decide if there is sufficient evidence for Huckaby to stand trial on the charges.

Prosecutors may have chosen the secret grand jury route in order to quell the public interest in the case in an effort to avoid having the trial moved out of San Joaquin County.

It recently became known that authorities used wiretaps during their investigation.

8 year-old Sandra Cantu disappeared on March 27 from the mobile park home in Tracy where she lived. Her body was found about ten days later in a suitcase floating in an irrigation ditch.

Huckaby pleaded not guilty to all charges.


Nora said...

How can trials be secret? Is this really in accordance with the Constitution?

Sprocket said...

This is not a "trial."

It's a grand jury. Virtually every grand jury proceeding I've ever known is not open to the public. Instead of a judge hearing evidence and making a ruling (preliminary), a body of individuals (citizens) is chosen to hear the evidence and then vote on it.

Most states have grand juries. It's a different avenue than a preliminary hearing, but both can result in charges being brought against an individual.

Nora said...

Thanks Sprocket. Is there a choice the defendant has, or is it made for them by the court system?

Sprocket said...

I'm not positive, but I believe it's the prosecution who decides how they will present their case.

In the Phil Spector case, a grand jury was called.

In the Robert Blake case, a preliminary hearing was called.

I'm sure it's determined on a case by case basis. I "believe" in LA County, most cases have a preliminary hearing.

Nora said...

Thanks again,Sprocket. Good to know how the system works.

katfish said...

Very interesting they would use the Grand Jury to protect the motive and keep the cause of death secret from the public.

In the case I'm following in IL a Grand Jury was convened and returned an indictment. On the day that the preliminary hearing was scheduled the 17 count indictment was formally read to the accused.

While reading the counts, the basis for each count was read to the accused....such as 1 of the 10counts of first-degree murder was- causing the death of the victim by blunt force trauma to the head.

It may be different in California but in IL once the indictment is returned it is again a public matter. Of course the state has no obligation to release their theory of motive.

Good luck to the prosecution in quelling the public interest in this case...not going to happen IMO. At least they can tell the court they tried.