PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ In the wake of a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to charge any of the officers in Breonna Taylor’s death, Attorney General Peter Neronha is renewing his call to allow Rhode Island grand juries to release reports on their investigations, whether they hand down an indictment or not.
Neronha said if a similar situation were to happen in Rhode Island right now, the grand jury would not be able to share with the public the facts and testimony presented to them, nor how they came to their conclusion.
“There’s tremendous public interest in what happened and why,” Neronha said of the Taylor case. “If Kentucky’s law was like Rhode Island’s law, there’s just no opportunity to present what evidence was presented to the grand jury, what the grand jury’s reaction was to that evidence, or what recommendations the grand jury might have even if they don’t indict.”
Under Neronha’s proposed bill, which he introduced back in February, a Superior Court judge would have to agree to release of any report on the grand jury’s findings and anyone named in the report would be given notice in advance so they would have an opportunity to object.
“Our bill recognizes that there are certain circumstances … where the issues at stake are so high and the understanding of what happened and why is so important and the public needs to understand the resolve,” Neronha added.
Neronha said a grand jury report should only be released if it advances the public interest, adding that his legislation would be used sparingly and not apply to every case.
“There are some legitimate reasons not to turn over grand jury material,” he said. “A lot of it is to protect the accused in instances where the accused did not commit a crime or the level of evidence does not warrant a criminal charge.”
So far, state lawmakers have declined to pass Neronha’s proposed legislation. He said he plans to reintroduce it next year.