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Disorder in the Court

[whitespace] Behind the deepening rift in the grand jury lies a tangle of suspected improprieties, interference and protection given to friends of people in high places

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY grand juror Gary Wood has the perfect face and figure for the holiday season: full white beard and a gray ponytail, massive body towering over everyone around him, a pleasantly round belly that probably shakes when he laughs. But sitting at the head of a crowded table last week in the conference room of the county Human Relations Commission, with commissioners listening intently to his presentation and reporters from three newspapers writing down his words, Wood seems anything but jolly. As one of the leaders of a group of five grand jurors who recently went public with accusations of racism against the grand jury and presiding judge, Wood knows he is on shaky ground right now. He and his fellow dissenters could be hailed as heroes for exposing a corrupt system, they could be branded as villains for breaking their oath of silence and for causing a breakup of the grand jury itself, or they could end up as jailbirds for talking about grand jury business at all.

"How are you doing, Gary?" one of the commissioners asks him.

"Every day out of jail is a good deal," Wood answers, and does not smile.

Since Wood and four fellow grand jurors (forewoman pro tempore Jessica Lloyd-Rogers, Jean Echevarria, Margarita Maestas-Flores and Jerry Gandara) and several past grand jury members went public with complaints about exclusion of minority and progressive jurors from the jury's deliberations, the grand jury has been a hotbed of rumor and activity. At least four other jurors (none of them the dissenters listed above) have turned in their resignations in protest over the turmoil on the grand jury, though presiding Judge Leslie Nichols reportedly has so far refused to accept them. Nichols has hurriedly scheduled meetings with the five dissenters and with the entire grand jury to defuse the situation. Sources in the grand jury would not describe the contents of those meetings, saying only that Nichols had promised to investigate the situation and take appropriate action.

And, amid all of this, there have been rumors that Assistant District Attorney Bill Larsen is preparing to charge the five dissidents with violating their grand jury oath, which forbids jurors from discussing grand jury matters.

But a source close to the grand jury says that while the dissident grand jurors face possible jail time for publicly disclosing procedural improprieties within the grand jury, the root cause of their complaints is being quietly swept under the rug. Dissident grand jurors say they have evidence that a member of the district attorney's staff and a member of the grand jury itself have leaked information to people who are the subject of the grand jury's investigations. They say they also have evidence of stalling and foot-dragging by the district attorney's office, which all but derailed an important investigation of the Berryessa School District, and that there have been leaks and coverups in cases involving the San Jose Municipal Golf Course four years ago and the Santa Clara County Water District earlier this year.

School Assignment

THE MOST SERIOUS OF THE charges stem from the grand jury's attempted investigation of improprieties in the Berryessa Union School District.

The 1998-99 grand jury opened up a formal investigation of the Berryessa Union School District after receiving a series of complaints from Berryessa residents. The complaints included, among others things, charges of discrimination by the superintendent's office against African American and Latino employees, harassment of female employees by the superintendent, illegalities in the district's handling of the Measure G bond election in the spring of 1998, and improprieties in the hiring of Vic Ajlouny, a political and public relations consultant who resides in Omaha, Neb.

But sources close to the grand jury say that the Berryessa investigation began to unravel in early October, after the grand jury received information that one of the subjects of their investigation, Ajlouny, had ties to the DA's office. A longtime Berryessa schools political consultant who was contracted last July to run the district's public relations project, Ajlouny had also served as a consultant to District Attorney George Kennedy's June primary reelection campaign. Members of the Berryessa subcommittee reportedly told their concerns about the possible Ajlouny conflict of interest to DA investigator Tom Johnson, who said he would pass on the information to the DA's office. Later that day, the subcommittee asked Assistant DA Larsen to issue a subpoena for Berryessa Superintendent Herbert Wadley to appear before them on Oct. 19, but, according to jurors, he took his time about it.

"Instead of issuing the subpoenas the next day, as he had done on every other occasion," a grand jury source said, "Larsen just sat on them for a week, without contacting the subcommittee." Subcommittee chairwoman Jessica Lloyd-Rogers even placed four telephone calls to Larsen's office between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, "requesting assistance for BUSD subpoenas," according to minutes of the Oct. 22 grand jury meeting. Larsen is reported in the minutes as saying that he delayed responding to Lloyd-Rogers' calls "because of [his] efforts to determine if recusal were necessary."

The recusal Larsen referred to was recusal of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office from the Berryessa investigation because of the DA's relationship with Ajlouny. On Oct. 15, Larsen wrote to forewoman Joan Doss, informing her that the DA's office was recusing itself "relating to any aspect (civil/criminal) of the civil grand jury's investigation of the Berryessa Union School District." Grand jurors were instructed to turn over information of any possible Berryessa criminal violations to the state attorney general's office.

Larsen's weeklong delay in responding to the Wadley subpoena request had another result. The Berryessa School District suddenly announced that Wadley was taking several personal days off for a family emergency, beginning on Oct. 19, the day he was scheduled to appear before the grand jury. Wadley did not attend the Oct. 20 Berryessa School Board meeting, and was reportedly out of Northern California for several days.

"There's no way you can convince us that somebody in the DA's office didn't tip Wadley off," a source on the grand jury who requested anonymity says, "and the delay was merely the cover to give Wadley the time to leave before he had been served." The source also questioned the timing of the DA's recusal in light of the well-known association with Ajlouny. "The DA didn't suddenly learn there was a conflict of interest in the Berryessa investigation. But it was after the grand jury's Oct. 8 meeting with Tom Johnson that the DA's office discovered that the grand jurors knew about that conflict of interest. That's the only difference." The source says that the timing of the recusal, and Wadley's disappearance, give the appearance that someone in the DA's office was trying to stall the investigation.

Superintendent Wadley himself denies that he knew anything about any proposed grand jury subpoena when he took his leave last October. And Kennedy blisters at the charges. "Are you asking was there an inappropriate, crooked-fucking fix by the district attorney's office to spirit some individual out of the area and prevent him from answering a subpoena?" he asks. "What prevented this individual from being served by the state attorney general's office? Has he left the area for good? Why can't he be subpoenaed now? Have you asked your sources that?"

After the official recusal of the DA's office from the Berryessa investigation, Larsen continued to direct grand jury activities in a way that would delay and disrupt the Berryessa effort. Grand jury minutes of the Oct. 22 meeting report Larsen "deliver[ing a] reprimand" to Lloyd-Rogers for two subpoenas which the Berryessa grand jury subcommittee had signed and served on their own on Oct. 15, after the DA's recusal. "Larsen stated this was not a '911' matter," the minutes read. "If [county counsel attorneys] and he [Larsen] were not available, the matter could have waited. He [Larsen] added, 'We may even take a couple of days off to go play golf somewhere.' "

In fact, the source says, the DA's recusal had a devastating effect upon the Berryessa investigation. Wadley, who announced plans to retire early in 1999 shortly after the subpoena situation came up, has to this day not testified before the grand jury, nor has he ever been served with a subpoena. And the source says that the Berryessa district has so far failed to deliver many of the 104 documents the grand jury later subpoenaed. "We think they believe the investigation is falling apart," the source says. "They're waiting us out."

Oath of Silence

THE SWORN OATH taken by grand jurors reads in part: "I will not disclose any evidence brought before the grand jury, nor anything which I or any other grand juror may say ..." The violation of this oath stands at the heart of whether the dissident jurors will face jail time, but it is also, ironically, an issue in their own concerns about grand jury misconduct.

In early October, a source reports, the grand jury received information about possible improper contact between grand juror Dale Detwiler and the subject of a pending investigation. Detwiler, a longtime Berryessa resident who came within one petition signature of running for San Jose mayor this year, was serving on the subcommittee that was investigating Berryessa.

During one meeting, grand jurors discussed having a subpoena immediately issued to Berryessa's hired consultant, Ajlouny, who had recently been spotted in Berryessa on a visit from his home in Nebraska. Detwiler told them not to bother. "I had coffee with him yesterday morning, and he said he's going back out of town today." When incredulous grand jurors later confronted Detwiler with the fact that he was breakfasting with a subject of a grand jury investigation, the source said Detwiler denied making the statement that he had met with Ajlouny.

Jurors subsequently learned that Detwiler had a long history with the Berryessa Union School District in general and Ajlouny in particular. He was twice a candidate for the Berryessa school board and contributed $100 in 1996 to the BRITE (Berryessa Residents Insuring Tomorrow's Education) Committee, the committee that ran the election campaigns of Berryessa school board chairwoman Sue Mitchell and school board members Sue Brooks and Liz Chew. Detwiler also served on the board of directors of the Berryessa Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up by Ajlouny to raise money for the Berryessa schools.

Both Detwiler and Ajlouny admitted in interviews that they have talked since Detwiler joined the grand jury last summer. But they disagree on both the number of conversations and the subjects talked about.

Ajlouny says that he only talked to Detwiler once, by telephone from Omaha, sometime before Aug. 1, and that he didn't know Detwiler was on the grand jury when he first made the call. "He told me he was a grand juror," Ajlouny says. "I told him I understood the situation, so I backed off. He was very uncomfortable talking to me."

Detwiler says that he and Ajlouny had two telephone conversations, the second one taking place in the fall while Ajlouny was in Santa Clara County. "I declined to talk to him about the grand jury," Detwiler says. When asked if that meant that Ajlouny asked about grand jury matters, Detwiler says no. "I think he would like to, but it didn't come up, and I didn't volunteer the information."

Detwiler also denies that he and Ajlouny discussed anything about Berryessa because "we knew that was an issue," saying that instead they talked about Pete McHugh's possible bid for reelection to county supervisor two years from now. But Ajlouny says that he called Detwiler specifically to talk about Berryessa in conjunction with Ajlouny's consultant work with the Berryessa school district. "As a key community member, [Detwiler] had some good ideas about the situation in Berryessa," Ajlouny says.

But when grand jurors asked forewoman Doss to recuse Detwiler because of his contacts with Ajlouny and Berryessa, Doss refused. The grand jury source said that grand juror Jessica Lloyd-Rogers was particularly incensed about Doss' ruling since Doss had earlier recused Lloyd-Rogers from any matters concerning the San Jose Police Department because Lloyd-Rogers, a freelance journalist, had written articles critical of the police department.

Muddy Waters

DETWILER'S NAME surfaces again as the possible source of leaks to targets of another grand jury investigation: the Santa Clara Valley Water District. For two years, the grand jury has been looking into allegations of widespread racial discrimination in employment at the water district.

A water district employee, speaking anonymously for fear of losing her job, says that in the midst of last year's investigation, water district board chairman Bob Gross told employees on more than one occasion that he "needs to have a little talk with my neighbor; she's the grand jury foreperson." Detwiler's wife, Louise, served as the forewoman of last year's grand jury. Both Gross and the Detwilers live in Berryessa. The employee also says that "the investigation was going on pretty good; then it just stopped." The 1997-98 grand jury failed to find any improprieties at the water district.

But the 1998-99 grand jury took up the investigation again, with Dale Detwiler serving on the new water district subcommittee. When word got back to several grand jurors that Gross was bragging in public again that he had a neighbor on the inside of the grand jury investigation, this time Dale, the grand jurors reportedly took the situation to forewoman Doss. Minutes of the Oct. 14 General Services Committee of the grand jury report the result: "Doss talked to District Attorney about grand jury leak to Water District official. She was advised that unless additional offenses occur, we should disregard the complaint."

Detwiler, who says that he has known the water district chairman for "oh, 35 to 40 years, I guess," denies talking to Gross about any grand jury matters concerning the water district.

Gross says, "I probably did state that my neighbor was on the grand jury." But when asked about allegations of improper contact with the Detwilers, Gross says, "That's nonsense. Wow. That's bullshit." He called Louise Detwiler "one fine lady. Knowing her, she'd laugh in my face and tell me to mind my own businesss if I tried to talk to her about grand jury matters." Gross says that he talks to Dale Detwiler regularly "about building reservoirs and things like that; we're both engineers." But he says the only time he talked to Dale Detwiler about the grand jury investigation was when he, Gross, appeared before the grand jury to testify and answer questions.

Unholy Links

IN THE LAUNDRY LIST of complaints about grand jury procedures, the name of Assistant District Attorney Larsen pops up again, this time in relation to allegations of improper actions in a 1994 investigation involving a city golf course.

The 1993-94 grand jury looked into improprieties in financial arrangements between the city of San Jose and the operator of the city-owned San Jose Municipal Golf Course, concluding that the city was losing considerable sums of money in the deal. Articles in the Mercury News in the summer of 1994 identified the operator as Mike Rawitser, a large contributor to council campaigns. As a result of the grand jury report, the city renegotiated its contract with Rawitser on more favorable terms.

But there was more. In August 1994, the civil grand jury received allegations from two former golf course employees that Rawitzer "illegally skimmed thousands of dollars each year" from the Municipal Golf Course, through a scheme involving credit card purchases not properly keyed into the cash register. Rawitser was never prosecuted for those allegations.

Nonetheless, the golf case remains a sticking point. When dissident grand jurors made their presentation to the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission last month, they included a written statement from grand juror Jan Sabo, who served two terms between 1993 and 1995. Sabo now lives in Owensboro, Ky.

In her statement, Sabo wrote in part: "During my first term ... I became dismayed with Assistant DA Bill Larsen, our legal counsel. ... I ... found that if he didn't like an investigation that the grand jury was working on, he would say it could not be pursued. During one simple inquiry, we had coincidentally discovered what appeared to be obvious acts of fraud, graft, forgery and embezzlement against local government. We even had witnesses come forward and calls from people who wished to talk to us about actions this well known local person had been observed committing. Because of the suspected criminal activity, it was turned over to ADA Larsen. Nothing was ever done. Sometime later, we learned that ADA Larsen had been seen on more than one occasion, in a recreational setting with the alleged 'bad guy.' I guess the DA's office can pick and choose their cases. Perhaps they have a huge workload or maybe this case wasn't important. Nevertheless, the actions of ADA Larsen deeply disappointed me and certainly disillusioned me when it comes to this particular office."

Speaking by telephone from Owensboro, Sabo says that her grand jury secrecy oath prevents her from identifying the target of the investigation referred to in her remarks. But a source in the grand jury confirms that the investigation was of the San Jose Municipal Golf Course, and the "bad guy" referred to by Sabo was Mike Rawitser.

Kennedy says that the decision not to bring charges in the Municipal Golf Course case was his alone. "I put a lot of time into that case," he says. "I would have liked to file charges, if we could have proved them. We had problems with the statute of limitations, as well as on determining the value of some of the items allegedly stolen." After conferring with Larsen, Kennedy says that Larsen "does not know Rawitser and says he would not recognize him if he saw him."

Campaign Coverup

ONE OF THE MORE SERIOUS Berryessa accusations being investigated by this year's grand jury involved the Measure G campaign, a $50 million Berryessa general obligation school bond measure voted on last April. The bond measure failed, but several Berryessa citizens complained to the grand jury that, contrary to California law, the Berryessa School District had spent district money to lobby in favor of the bond. The grand jury was also looking into charges that district teachers and administrators were coerced by the superintendent's office to contribute money to the Measure G campaign, and that all employment information was left off the campaign finance reporting forms in order to hide that fact.

But members of the 1998-99 grand jury who have brought their dissatisfaction to light also say they learned that the Berryessa School District was being protected in high places in the county even before the jury began an investigation into several possible legal improprieties in the district.

Several grand jurors visited a July 21 Berryessa board meeting on a preliminary fact-finding mission, wearing plainly visible grand jury badges, sitting in groups of two or more, and answering to all queries that they were merely "monitoring" the meeting as they said they had been told to do by Doss. Minutes of the Oct. 22, 1998, grand jury meeting described the aftermath of that July 21 meeting: "After the ... meeting, Doss informed [a grand jury committee] that a 'high-level official from Berryessa' had contacted a 'high-level official' in the DA's office, reporting jurors were seen speaking to district opponents. Doss would not identify the parties involved and told [committee] members to not use badges, to sit separately, and to reply that they are 'observing.' [A source said that these rules were to apply strictly to attendance at future Berryessa school board meetings.] Larsen also would not identify the DA or BUSD sources."

Asked about the allegation, Kennedy says that the DA's office was contacted by "someone, not a Berryessa official," who complained about what they called "officious and pushy conduct by grand jurors" at the July 21 meeting. Kennedy says that, according to standard practice, "We passed the information along to the grand jury. The district attorney's office does not require the grand jury to do anything. We provide them with legal advice about the best way to handle things."

The grand jury source said that rather than scaring them off, the attempt to set up special rules for Berryessa made several grand jurors more curious about the large stack of complaints they had been receiving about the school district.

Minutes from the same Oct. 22 meeting show that grand jurors continued to regularly monitor Berryessa board meetings, to a decidedly hostile reception. "The conduct and presence of grand jury members at BUSD meetings were mentioned [by Larsen], with [county counsel Linda] Deacon later elaborating on 'complaints' from BUSD trustee president Susan Mitchell. Juror [Louis] Rosenberg [not one of the dissidents] vehemently denied Deacon's allegations of juror misconduct or lack of professionalism at trustee meetings. On the contrary, he was physically accosted by an audience member and questioned. Juror Maestas-Flores related that she was followed into the restroom by three women, including Superintendent Wadley's wife. One of the individuals, she said, pulled her name tag and wanted to know Maestas-Flores' identity. Another individual videotaping the meeting turned the camera on jurors several times, as well as when they left a meeting."


Has there been a coverup in Berryessa?


Profit Pipeline

IN A LETTER TO THE 1997-98 Santa Clara County grand jury in November 1997, former Berryessa school board member Diane Kruger called for an investigation into an agreement between Berryessa and a Southern California for-profit corporation called Preview Publishing Company, asking, "Is it allowable for a school district to use public resources for research and development to create education materials and programs for a profit corporation to market?" Kruger was concerned that she had "never found a separate cost center in the Berryessa Union School District budget that controls or allocates money for this research and development. I suspect that there may not be any control or audit trail as the cost may be lumped in staff salaries."

As a result of this letter and other complaints, last year's Santa Clara County grand jury looked briefly into the electronic curriculum arrangement in Berryessa. It issued a terse statement in its Final Report: "Previous to the grand jury's involvement, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office conducted an investigation and found no wrongdoing. The 1997-1998 grand jury reached the same conclusion." The report was signed by 1997-98 grand jury forewoman Louise Detwiler, the wife of Dale Detwiler.

But this year the 1998-99 grand jury began taking a new look at the PPC situation after they began a general investigation of the Berryessa district. What they found, according to grand jury sources, was not only evidence of possible illegal actions by the Berryessa district in its relationship with PPC, but also evidence that a member of the district attorney's investigative staff leaked supposedly secret information to Berryessa officials. (See related story, p. 25.)

In transcripts of an audio tape of a contentious Jan. 20, 1998, Berryessa board meeting, Superintendent Wadley said that district attorney's office investigator Tom Johnson revealed Berryessa board member Tonia Izu as the source of one of the complaints to the grand jury, a violation of the grand jury secrecy clause.

"Mr. Thomas Johnson ... informed me during the investigation and he said this is for public information, and I can quote him," the transcript quotes Wadley as saying. "Tonia Izu wrote a letter, and a letter that had a series of questions implying that I had committed illegal acts, and/or implying that I was involved in some way or in some manner with EduLink in committing illegal acts."

Although Izu denied that she was the source of the complaint against the EduLink contract, other board members weighed in on her. Board member Nick Chernoff asked Izu why she hadn't brought her concerns to the board itself, and board member Sue Brooks accused Izu of "going around behind the fence. Dishonorable. I don't know what the motives are. It does nothing but harm to the District, to the Board, to the students of Berryessa."

The Berryessa board later voted to demand that Izu turn over to them any complaints or materials that she had given to the grand jury and referred the matter to Kay & Stevens, the board's attorneys.

Diane Kruger, who attended that board meeting, describes the attack against Izu as "chilling." "It was awful," she says. "Wadley was absolutely livid. He was yelling at her. It was like [Izu] was on trial, and they wanted her to confess. It sent a definite message that you should never complain to the grand jury about Berryessa, because it's going to get back to them."

Wadley denies telling the school board that Johnson identified Izu as the source of the complaint, and says that Johnson never even gave him that information. "He said he was not at liberty to reveal his source," Wadley says, adding that he figured out that Izu was the complainant from questions later asked him by the grand jury itself.

But after talking to Johnson, Kennedy says that Johnson did, indeed, reveal to Wadley the name of an individual who had made a complaint about the Berryessa district. "But this revelation took place long before the grand jury got involved in this investigation," Kennedy says, "in fact, even before the grand jury was empaneled." The DA's office, he says, was investigating the matter independently at that point. Asked for the date on which Johnson revealed the information to Wadley, Kennedy says he does not know.

Izu was out of the country and unavailable for comment about this article. But in fact, despite her denials to the school board, it was Izu who had complained to the grand jury about the EduLink situation, writing to Louise Detwiler twice during the summer of 1997. In a Sept. 24, 1997, letter to Detwiler, Izu wrote, "My main concern, as before, is a possible exploitation of public school district resources to benefit a private company."

Members of the Berryessa investigation subcommittee of 1998-99 met with Johnson on Oct. 8 of this year to discuss new allegations against the school district as well as to confront Johnson with charges that he had leaked information to Wadley. Grand jury minutes of Oct. 22, referring to that Oct. 8 meeting, state that "Johnson reported his 'concern and embarrassment' that ... BUSD Supt. Herbert Wadley made statements that someone has 'a direct pipeline to the DA's office.' " The minutes also noted that subcommittee members showed Johnson "two sets of BUSD Trustee meeting minutes; these identified Supt. Wadley's reference to Johnson as a DA office contact."

A grand juror who was present at the Oct. 8 meeting with Johnson says that the DA's investigator said he closed down the investigation of the PPC/ Berryessa complaint because Wadley told him that while the district did enter negotiations with PPC over electronic curriculum, the original contract with PPC "was never implemented." The same phrase appeared in an early draft of the report by last year's grand jury on the PPC/Berryessa investigation.

But there is evidence that at the time they cleared Berryessa of any wrongdoing in the PPC/EduLink matter, last year's grand jury had direct evidence that a web of implemented agreements existed between Berryessa and PPC and its successor organizations. District teachers had done several hours of work for Hueneme/EduLink, EduLink had paid a substantial sum of money to a nonprofit foundation set up by the district, and some Berryessa teachers had even made private deals of their own with EduLink, using district facilities to develop the curricula but cutting the district out of the financial benefits.

In a "Confidential, Attorney-Client Privileged" document written on May 20, 1997, and discussed in private by Berryessa Trustees at a June 10, 1997, meeting, school board attorney William F. Kay of Palo Alto wrote that "[t]he Board of Trustees has not approved the altered [contract with Hueneme]. Nevertheless, District teachers have been developing programs as the documents contemplate. As of the date of this letter, the District has submitted at least eleven (11) Outlines to PPC or another entity Michael Rosenfeld designated. ... In August 1996, Michael Rosenfeld and EduLINK, an entity Mr. Rosenfeld has proposed as a successor to PPC/The Hueneme Company, delivered forty thousand dollars ($40,000) to [Berryessa]." Later in the document, Kay wrote that "District teachers have spent numerous hours" on EduLink work, and revealed that "at least twelve (12) District teachers also contracted directly with EDuLINK ... to develop additional programs. EDuLINK paid these teachers directly, at a pay rate that EDuLINK established." Kay also said that "some District administrators and teachers are working on projects for the District and also on separate projects for EDuLINK. Currently, individual teachers effectively determine whether the District receives any benefit from a given project, by deciding whether to do the work for the District or directly for EDuLINK. District teachers and administrators in this position risk violating state conflict of interest laws and District policies."

A copy of this document was in the possession of last term's grand jury in late January of this year when they determined that "the original contract was never implemented" and decided to close the Berryessa/EduLink investigation.

Kennedy says that he could not comment further on matters that had come before the grand jury, citing grand jury secrecy provisions. "But maybe this is just a temporary restraint," he says. "Maybe there is going to be some public forum where all of this information will be able to come out."

Asked if the DA's office had any plans to bring charges against grand jurors for going public to the Human Relations Commission, Kennedy says, "I'm not going to answer that question."

Jury's Out

AT A MEETING OF THE Human Relations Commission Executive Committee last week to discuss the grand jury situation, commission director James McEntee opens with a quiet word of praise for the dissident grand jurors. Referring to their remarks before the full commission two weeks before, McEntee says, "That was probably the most professional presentation I've heard in 24 years of county employment."

And in fact the dissidents have not merely been complaining about the situation with Santa Clara County's civil grand jury. Late last month, in their public presentation before the Human Relations Commission, jurors turned over a set of recommendations to solve the problems they have highlighted.

Among the recommendations, the jurors asked that the grand jury be representative of the county's racial and ethnic populations, that the court "provide a clear process and recourse for jurors to address concerns about grand jury matters without retaliation," and that Santa Clara County "follow the law for mandated grand jury training." Human Relations commissioners are in the process of adopting some of these recommendations and passing them on to the Superior Court. The recommendations are calm and well-reasoned, just the type of measured information one would want to get from committee members of a civil grand jury. In fact, it is almost as if the dissident grand jurors had been assigned to investigate the grand jury itself.

But with the court system seeming to be against them rather than protecting them, several of the grand jurors privately expressed fear and uncertainty about what results their actions will bring.

"I heard a story about a Santa Clara County grand juror from a previous year who wouldn't back off a sensitive investigation, even after she was warned," one grand juror says. "She got an anonymous phone call, telling her that a man was going to break into her house with a knife. She didn't listen. It happened. A man broke into her house later on, and raped her." The juror refuses to identify the woman, or say where the story had come from. "I've already said enough," the juror says. "I'm scared."

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From the December 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro.

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