van Irion presented an ‘argument’ that the Grand Jury which indicted Walt was somehow tainted. There is one problem with this argument
Read Rippy v. State, 550 SW 2d 636 – Tenn: Supreme Court 1977
Petitioners complain that the Grand Jury was not impartial and unbiased and its proceedings were not held secret.
The only statutory disqualification of grand jurors by reason of interest is set forth in § 40-1613, T.C.A.:
If any member of the grand jury is charged with an indictable offense, or is a prosecutor, or if the offense was committed against his person or property, or if he is connected by blood or marriage with the person charged, he shall not be present at or take part in the consideration of the charge, or the deliberations of his fellow jurors thereon.
[NBC: The jurors were neither victims of the crimes against Cunningham, nor where they connected by blood or marriage, so any objections that they had heard about Walt will likely be rejected as irrelevant]
Almost one hundred years ago this Court, in State v. Chairs and McNeal, 68 Tenn. 196, 197 (1877) declared:
[W]e do not understand that our laws require that the grand jurors shall be free from any previous opinion as to the guilt of the accused.
[NBC: This is a major hurdle for Walt to overcome as there is no requirement that the grand jurors shall be free from any previous opinion.]
This same language was quoted with approval in State v. Felts, 220 Tenn. 484, 489, 418 S.W.2d 772, 774 (1967). This seems to accord with the prevailing view throughout the United States. Thus, in 38 Am.Jur.2d, 642*642 Grand Jury, § 7, under the heading, “Effect of bias, prejudice, or interest” we find:
Generally, in the absence of a controlling statutory provision, a person is not disqualified or incompetent to serve as a grand juror by reason ofbias or prejudice on his part, by the fact that he has heard or read about the case under investigation or has even formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt of the accused, or by his interest in a prosecution other than a direct pecuniary interest. The reasons assigned in support of this rule are that a grand jury, being an accusatory and not a judicial body, has the right and obligation to act on its own information, however acquired; that the oath required to be taken by grand jurors contemplates that they may be called on to act in the cases of both enemies and friends and requires them to inquire diligently into the commission of crimes; and that those who live in the vicinity of the place where the crime was committed know better than others the character of the parties and of the witnesses and are, therefore, particularly proper members of the grand jury. However, there seems no authority which goes so far as to hold that this would be true where the jurors had determined through malice or bribery to violate their oaths. (Footnotes omitted)
We, therefore, hold that in the absence of a statutory prohibition, express malice, bribery or other equally reprehensible conduct, there is no legal objection to a person with bias or prejudice serving as a member of a grand jury.