From the December 2000 Idaho Observer:


Judge lets loose on legal system

Prosecutors and police are too lax and grand juries too willing to indict, he said

Bruce Cadwallader
The Columbus Dispatch

Judge Richard S. Sheward said the grand jury is nothing more than a “tool of the prosecutor.”

Frustrated by what he called flimsy criminal cases and grand juries so malleable they could “indict a ham sandwich,” Judge Richard S. Sheward blasted Franklin County prosecutors and Columbus police recently.

Incited by the case of an off-duty security guard charged with carrying a concealed weapon -- a charge Sheward is considering dismissing -- the Franklin County Common Pleas judge suggested it is time for changes in the process of bringing charges against criminal suspects.

Sheward said the secret grand-jury process is being used only as “a tool of the prosecutor” in Franklin County instead of the investigatory process it is meant to be.

The judge made the statements Oct. 26 while considering a defense motion to dismiss two felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon against Kevin P. Wren, 37, of the East Side. The bonded and state-certified security guard works for a company that services cash machines for banks.

After hearing how Wren was charged and indicted, Sheward contended the system is so misused that “You can indict a ham sandwich.”

“The grand jury shouldn't be an assembly line where we run cases through and immediately stamp them. That's why judges around here have 700, 800 cases on their docket,” said Sheward, one of 16 judges on the Common Pleas bench.

“This guy has a responsible job, no prior record,” he said of Wren. “We probably screwed up his life.

A partial transcript of the hearing also shows Sheward criticizing Columbus police.

“For reasons that I can't explain, I don't understand, today my experience has been they investigate next to nothing,” said Sheward, who was an assistant prosecutor in the mid-1970s. “And this case, in that regard, is not atypical; it is very typical,” he said of the charges against Wren.

Police spokesman Sgt. Earl W. Smith said Sheward's comments were the exception. “I'm not hearing routine complaints from other judges, so it would seem that Judge Sheward is in the minority,” Smith said. “I don't know what he's talking about.

Wren was scheduled to stand trial Nov. 22.