Criminal Procedure

Activists Spurring Grand Jury Probes More Successful Fighting Porn than Abortion

For months, a Kansas grand jury, impaneled by citizen petition, has been investigating whether an abortion provider performed illegal late-term abortions.

So far, anti-abortion activists in the state have not succeeded in getting an indictment through use of an 1887 law that permits citizens there to call a grand jury by gathering enough petition signatures, the New York Times reports. The latest investigation of Dr. George Tiller by a Wichita grand jury is set to end next month.

The 1887 law was also used to seat grand juries in two other investigations of abortion providers, both of which declined to return an indictment, the newspaper says. One of the earlier investigations concerned the death of a woman who had an abortion at Tiller’s clinic. The other, which concerned abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic, resulted in an unusual statement by grand jurors. They called for re-evaluation of the statute permitting citizen-called grand juries with regard to the evidence required and the number of signatures needed.

Activists have been more successful in their use of the law against adult bookstores and video stores. Six out of seven grand juries indicted the businesses on misdemeanor obscenity charges, but only one resulted in a conviction, the Times story says.

The use of the statute by activists seeking abortion and pornography prosecutions was also detailed in an Associated Press story published in January. AP reported that only five other states have citizen grand jury laws.

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