A bill to record grand jury testimony in Oregon is moving through the state legislature and recently won endorsements from the Deschutes County District Attorney, the Bend Bulletin, and the Oregon State Senate’s Committee on Judiciary.
Oregon grand juries hear testimony to decide whether sufficient evidence supports charging a person with a felony offense. Currently, the testimony that a grand jury hears is secret and is not recorded. The only people present at grand jury are the prosecutor, 5-7 grand jurors, and the testifying witness. The defendant is not allowed to hear the testimony presented against him at grand jury and almost never learns what the witness said. The Oregon legislature, however, is considering whether to require grand jury testimony to be recorded to promote increased transparency in judicial proceedings.
On January 28, 2016, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel published a letter in the Bend Bulletin supporting the proposal. Three days later, in an editorial titled “Make audio recordings of grand juries,” the Bend Bulletin agreed with Hummel and endorsed grand jury recording.
Last week, on February 10, 2016, an amended version of the recording bill passed the Oregon Senate’s Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote. The bill will now move to the Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.