No Background Check Done On Felon Grand Jury Foreman
By Ben Hall
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Davidson County District Attorney held a news conference confirming what NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported.
Hundreds of criminal cases are in legal limbo because a convicted felon served as grand jury foreman for three months in 2011.
State law is clear that felons cannot serve on grand juries.
District Attorney General Torry Johnson told reporters that no one ran a criminal background check on Eugene Grayer who was appointed foreman by Davidson County Judge Monte Watkins.
Grayer plead guilty to trying steal a $20,000 shipment of jewelry, electronics and clothing in the late 1970's.
"Judge Watkins was responsible for selecting Mr. Grayer. I don't know what specifically he was asked if he was asked at all. You would have to asked Judge Watkins," Johnson said.
But Judge Watkins declined to talk about the issue.
Court officers stood in front of his courtroom door, and he told us he was not legally allowed to answer questions.
Torry Johnson says the District Attorney's office runs background checks on other grand jurors but not the foremen.
He says that will change now.
"There is obviously, in this one instance, something that will need to be done differently in the future," Johnson said.
Johnson says the worst case scenario is that all of the more than 900 indictments handed down when Grayer was foreman could be voided.
It would cost untold amounts of money and time to put all the cases before a new grand jury.
But Johnson argues that should not happen.
"We are obviously taking the position that while this is regrettable, and it's something that should not have happened and certainly won't happen in the future, it's not something that will mean all these cases will have to be redone and represented back into the system," Johnson said.
Ultimately it may be up to the State Supreme Court to decide.
No one can find that this has ever happened before in the state of Tennessee.
Davidson County's public defender has already said she will challenge one indictment based on this.
The DA expects there will be others.