Local American Civil Liberties Union officials and other corrections critics have failed to persuade 3rd District judges that a grand jury is needed to investigate conditions at the Utah State Prison and Salt Lake County Jail.
The 13 judges released their decision Wednesday afternoon, one week after concluding their biennial grand jury hearings, without disclosing whether any issues besides corrections were considered.ACLU of Utah Director Michelle Parish-Pixler had asked the judges for a grand jury probe of the prison, alleging that the rights of inmates are being violated. And attorney Brian M. Barnard wanted an investigation of overcrowding at the county jail.
In the decision released Wednesday, the judges said the information provided by witnesses during the two days of secret hearings "didn't justify the calling of a grand jury."
The 3rd District Court hasn't empaneled a grand jury since 1986, when one was convened to investigate allegations against then Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon, two county attorney investigators, and Utah Power & Light's coal mining operations.
Long a controversial institution, the grand jury system itself is being investigated by the Utah Legislature. A bill that would revamp the grand jury process to provide more protections to witnesses and ease the expense to counties is scheduled for debate in the 1990 legislative session.
Some lawmakers, however, plan to argue for the abolition of the grand jury system. Presiding 3rd District Judge Scott Daniels, who was obliged by law to order last week's hearings, also has supported the abolition.