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Judge lets loose on legal system
Prosecutors and police are too lax and grand
juries too willing to indict, he said
November 3, 2000
The Columbus Dispatch
Dispatch Staff Reporter
Richard S. Sheward said the grand jury is nothing more than a "tool of the
Frustrated by what he called flimsy criminal cases
and grand juries so
malleable they could "indict a ham sandwich,'' Judge
Richard S. Sheward blasted Franklin County prosecutors and Columbus police
Incited by the case of an off-duty security guard charged with
concealed weapon -- a charge Sheward is considering dismissing --
Franklin County Common Pleas judge suggested it is time for changes in
the process of bringing charges against criminal suspects.
the secret grand-jury process is being used only as "a tool of the prosecutor''
in Franklin County instead of the investigatory process it is meant to be.
The judge made the statements Oct. 26 while considering a defense motion
to dismiss two felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon against Kevin P.
Wren, 37, of the East Side. The bonded and state- certified security guard works
for a company that services cash machines for banks.
After hearing how
Wren was charged and indicted, Sheward contended the system is so misused that
"You can indict a ham sandwich.''
"The grand jury shouldn't be an
assembly line where we run cases through and immediately stamp them. That's why
judges around here have 700, 800 cases on their docket,'' said Sheward, one of
16 judges on the Common Pleas bench.
"This guy has a responsible job, no
prior record,'' he said of Wren. "We
probably screwed up his life.
A partial transcript of the hearing also shows
Sheward criticizing Columbus police.
"For reasons that I can't explain,
I don't understand, today my experience has been they investigate next to
nothing,'' said Sheward, who was an assistant prosecutor in the mid-1970s. "And
this case, in that regard, is not atypical; it is very typical,'' he said of the
charges against Wren.
Police spokesman Sgt. Earl W. Smith said Sheward's
comments were the exception. "I'm not hearing routine complaints from other
judges, so it would seem that Judge Sheward is in the minority,'' Smith said. "I
don't know what he's talking about.
County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien yesterday declined
to comment about Sherman and Sheward's statements about the grand jury. He also
declined to comment about Wren's case while the motion before Sheward is
pending. However, O'Brien disagreed with the judge about Columbus police
Franklin County Administrative Judge David E.
Cain said that after swearing in a grand jury at the beginning of each session
every four months, the court should take a hands-off approach. "It's always been
the prosecutor's show. The court has no business deciding what's going on inside
the grand jury or who appears there,'' Cain said. "Some states don't even have a
grand jury. It's a right under the Ohio Constitution, even though they seem to
Cain said a report he receives quarterly showed that
grand jurors who met from May to September issued 2,430 indictments and decided
not to indict 16 people.
Hunt, the officer who cited Wren, could not be
reached for comment
yesterday. He is a 25-year veteran of the Police
Division. Wren, who cannot work while under indictment, is scheduled for trial
Copyright © 2000, The Columbus Dispatch
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