In some situations, in the state of Texas, before someone can be charged with a crime, he or she must first be indicted by a grand jury. The outcome of these proceedings, in which a prosecutor may be the only attorney present, determines whether someone will be charged with a crime. In making that decision, testimony and evidence will be offered. Currently controversy is brewing regarding a tool used by prosecutors in some Harris County grand jury proceedings. 

That tool is a shooting simulator that some grand jurors receive training in prior to serving. The district attorney’s office defends the practice by characterizing it as an educational tool that illustrates the use of deadly force. Some defense attorneys take issue with that practice however, particularly in police shootings, where they feel the situations presented to grand jurors promotes a pro-law enforcement bias. One defense attorney who recently challenged its used characterized it as mind manipulation.

Readers may be aware of the important role the introduction of evidence plays in a criminal trial. As the controversy surrounding this simulator illustrates, the type of evidence allowed in a grand jury proceeding could have a bearing on the way in which a potential criminal case proceeds as well.

Limits regarding when the simulator can be introduced could affect whether someone is indicted for a crime and is ultimately charged. So far none of the challenges defense attorneys have brought in connection with the use of the simulator have been successful. Whether that will change in the future remains to be seen.

Source: The Star Tribune, “Texas prosecutors’ shooting simulator stirs debate on whether it promotes pro-police mindset,” Juan A. Lozano, May 5, 2014