“Justice is indiscriminately due to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.” — John Jay, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
The Jones County grand jury that heard evidence about the shooting death of 23-year-old Katherine Sinclair reached a surprising non-decision when it convened last Thursday. After seven hours of hearing evidence and an hour of deliberation, at least 12 of the 22 jurors voted that they wanted more evidence. That means it will be at least 30 days until the grand jury decides whether Sinclair shot herself or if jurors believe her boyfriend, 38-year-old Greg Burroughs, may have fired the deadly shot into her head on the night of June 1 in the garage of his home in the gated community Windermere.
To people who are frustrated with the pace of this case’s proceedings and the presumed lack of zeal to pursue criminal charges by police and prosecutors, the grand jury’s request only fueled their theories. Burroughs and his family are wealthy and connected. He has a history of not suffering consequences for crimes he’s accused of, and for which there was overwhelming evidence, and that doesn’t sit well with most people.
Grand jury proceedings are, by law, done in secret. Its role is to determine if there’s enough evidence to go to trial, not to decide guilt or innocence. We contend that there was enough evidence to send this case to trial before any crime-lab tests were completed. It shouldn’t have taken more than a half-hour to convince a grand jury of that.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the grand jury, do you believe that on the night of June 1, Katherine Sinclair, who is left-handed, walked or ran from inside the palatial estate of her boyfriend, Gregory Burroughs, naked from the waist down, then jumped in her car inside the garage and shot herself in the back right side of her head?”
It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that, in our opinion. We also realize that much of our court system isn’t rooted in common sense. Since grand jury proceedings aren’t public, we don’t get to cover them, so there is no outside oversight. But our understanding from those who are intimately knowledgeable of the process is that the district attorney “steers” the grand jury in the direction he wants them to go. Several people who have been involved in the process here can’t recall a grand jury being convened for a single case and they can’t recall grand jurors ever asking for more evidence.
That’s not an indictment of our officials, just an observation by people who know the process … And another example of how things don’t seem to happen to Burroughs the way they do to most people in the justice system.
We do know for a fact that the grand jury foreperson takes an oath that says, “You shall not present any person through malice, hatred or ill will, NOR (emphasis added) shall you leave any person unpresented through fear, favor or affection, or for any reward, hope or promise thereof …”
If the DA doesn’t think the suspect is guilty, or doesn’t have serious doubts about his innocence, he shouldn’t take the case before the grand jury. But if the DA does believe the suspect is guilty, then he should go full throttle to get him indicted and go to trial to let that process play out, regardless of whether the case seems winnable.
If there is no indictment in this case, there needs to be a detailed explanation of why a no-bill was handed down. We’re not suspicious … yet. But we do demand accountability. In a recent editorial, we wrote that DA Tony Buckley is the right man for the job, above the influence of the “good ol’ boy network.” We will continue to believe that as long as this case goes to trial.
We understand that some unfortunate things happened during the investigation that were beyond his control. The case will have some problems that would come up in trial against a tough, sharp defense attorney, Brad Thompson. The state may lose despite the best efforts of the DA.
But even with a tainted crime scene and even if crime-lab evidence isn’t ironclad, this case needs to go to trial. If it doesn’t, don’t try to sell the notion of “equal justice” to the people of Jones County in the future.