A Rocky Mountain News reporter got bad information yesterday when he was told a grand jury was investigating the murder of Bronco cornerback Darrent Williams.
[District Attorney Spokesperson] Lynn Kimbrough denied a report by the Rocky Mountain News that a grand jury is hearing testimony in the case. “The info in the breaking news alert is wrong. The grand jury is not hearing testimony, and a grand jury has not gotten the Williams case,” she said.
Legal analyst Scott Robinson thinks the case is tailor-made for a grand jury because of the grand jury’s subpoena power. I usually agree with Scott, but I’m skeptical in this case. I think the Denver police may be as effective, if not more effective, than a grand jury. This isn’t a document case where a corporation is refusing to turn over records or a murder case where the cause of death is unclear. This is a case where people know what happened and don’t want to talk. If the police are right that the killing is gang-related, a grand jury subpoena isn’t going to help. Those involved and those who know what happened that night would likely invoke their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to testify. That would leave the District Attorney with the option of foregoing their testimony or granting them immunity from prosecution for whatever they might say. What if one of those who got immunity later turned out to be the shooter? Even if immunized, witnesses can refuse to testify. They would be charged with contempt and sent to jail for a while. Given the gang culture, a contempt hit is far preferable to a snitch jacket. I think the District Attorney is wise to let the police continue their investigation rather than turn it over to a grand jury. Eventually, the cops will turn the heat up high enough in ways the grand jury can’t that will cause someone to turn and tell what happened that night.