Is the criminal justice system really broken?

Is the criminal justice system really broken?

Hamilton County, Tennessee: Opinion of A Grand Jury Foreperson V.S.  Criminal Court

Hamilton County, Tennessee: One of the two Grand Jury Forepersons serving in Hamilton County, Tennessee was recently replaced after twenty (20) years of devoted service.  According to the article posted by, one of the major reasons that Marsha Crabtree was not reappointed was due to increasing negativity and impartiality in the reports from her Grand Jurors.  The three Hamilton County, Tennessee criminal court Judges sent written notification to Ms. Crabtree that she would not be reappointed in January 2011.

The Public is Frustrated with the Criminal Justice System

The opinions of Ms. Crabtree and her Grand Jurors are shared by many people in the community, and around the country.  The public is frustrated with the criminal justice system and the fact that criminal offenders are often allowed to return to the community to repeatedly commit more crimes.  The criminal court Judges were appreciative of Ms. Crabtree’s years of service, but cited her increased negativity and lack of impartiality as the reason for not reappointing her for an 11th two year term. A Grand Jury Foreperson serves at the discretion and the pleasure of the Criminal Court, and the judges acted well within their discretion.

Although many people share in the opinions expressed by Ms. Crabtree, the judges correctly state that the “decisions of the Grand Jury result in criminal charges, loss of liberty and often prolonged incarceration prior to any determination in Criminal Court of whether or not a person is actually guilty, lack of impartiality of its leader could cause one to question the fairness of decisions and detrimentally impact the administration of justice.”

The Criminal Justice System is Overwhelmed

The reality is that the criminal justice system is overwhelmed with criminal defendants, the jails are overcrowded, and the law does not provide the “lock em up and throw away the key” option.  There are many factors which contribute to the seemingly endless stream of repeat criminal offenders going through the criminal courts.  Our judges work very hard to enforce the laws, and protect the public from the effects of crime.  However, the judges also must balance this with the mandate to protect the rights of the criminal defendant which are guaranteed by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitution and the laws of our State.  This is not an easy process.  Our Judges should be commended for their hard and faithful work.

Likewise, the Attorney General’s Office and the Criminal Defense Attorneys have their role in the system as well.  The criminal justice system is far from perfect, but it is an open forum, and people have the right to the freedom of speech to voice opinions regarding the system.  However, opinions, especially those of someone serving within the system, ought to be impartial and balanced,  and be kept within the proper boundaries.  Is any purpose really served when a Grand Jury uses its official reports to criticize the system?

All in all our system of justice, with all of the problems, serves the citizens of Tennessee well.  Although Ms. Crabtree decries the lack of the hearing of evidence in many cases, if a trial was to be held in every case before the Court, the courts would never be able to function.  The Court relies upon the attorneys (Tennessee Attorney General and Defense Attorney) to investigate, and negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement in many cases.  Only when cases can not be resolved by the State and the Defendant does the Court need to intervene and conduct a trial. Plea bargaining has been attacked many times, but the opponents never seem to offer any better solution which would not result in system lock-up.

Review: What is a plea bargain?

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