Los Angeles County's presiding judge Friday barred a grand juror who complained about a possible obstruction of the panel's effort to investigate a rape accusation against palimony attorney Marvin Mitchelson from participating when the grand jury considers most criminal cases.
Acting at the request of the district attorney's office, presiding Superior Court Judge Jack E. Goertzen removed Ralph Howe, chairman of the grand jury's criminal justice committee, from cases involving the district attorney's office.
The district attorney's office typically presents criminal matters before the grand jury, using the jury's subpoena power to question reluctant witnesses in investigations, and more rarely, asking grand jurors to decide whether someone should be charged with a crime.
Howe claimed in a story in The Times on Friday that the district attorney's office, the state attorney general's office and a judge had balked at providing the grand jury with an attorney that it needs to pursue the Mitchelson case, in response to a complaint it received from the alleged rape victim.
However, the district attorney's office and the attorney general's office have already investigated the rape complaint against Mitchelson, who has denied wrongdoing, and found insufficient evidence to prosecute him. Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert I. Garcetti said, "We're are convinced, based on our investigation, that no crime occurred."
Garcetti on Friday asked Goertzen to disqualify Howe. Garcetti said that, judging from the juror's published comments, he "demonstrated an apparent bias . . . against the attorney general's office, the district attorney's office and the Superior Court. We have a number of sensitive cases that . . . must be submitted to the grand jury."
Garcetti added that Howe has shown "a lack of appreciation about how the grand jury must legally function. . . . He's been told on a number of occasions that (by law) the grand jury must conduct investigations through the prosecuting agencies--the district attorney, the attorney general or a special prosecutor (named by a judge)--and that the grand jury is under the direct jurisdiction of the Superior Court. . . . They're not truly an independent body."
Informed of the judge's ruling by a reporter, Howe said: "They obviously think I'd be slanted (against the district attorney's office). I would hate to think that I would be that small of a person. But if they're uncomfortable with it, that's fine with me.