Judge Williams-Byers Discusses The Recent Turmoil Surrounding Grand Juries

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Judge Gayle Williams-Byers of the South Euclid Municipal Court in Cuyahoga County acknowledges that there is a high degree of distrust by citizens of the legal system and of grand juries. It is leading to turmoil in Ohio and across the nation.

“People are on edge,” she says. “Talk is permeating my entire community from churches to people on the street.”

She feels that people don’t understand the complexities of the legal process and that judges, lawyers, prosecutors and police do a rather poor job explaining complex legal proceedings in ways that people can comprehend.

In short, people don’t trust what they don’t understand and there is a rising level of public outrage about the judicial system from police interaction with citizens to prosecutors and courts, according to the judge.

Judge Williams-Byers thinks that we are at a critical societal tipping point and that to avoid chaos, more open and honest communication is necessary among all parties. 

“This is the largest undercurrent of lack of trust that I’ve ever seen,” she says.  “There is lack of understanding and lack of appreciation for the complexities of most situations.”

She applauds Gov. John Kasich’s announcement that he is establishing a task force to examine the issues of community and police relations.

 Judge William-Byers thinks racial divides are part of the problem but she feels that the growing chasm between citizens and the police and courts goes beyond race.

There is a level of distrust on all sides that is not encouraging, she says. 

“The only way we are going to close this divide is to talk, to communicate and to understand everyone’s position,” she notes.

In her interview with WOUB, Judge Williams-Byers describes the grand jury process in simple terms that people can understand.

Above is an abbreviated interview.  For her full 29-minute interview, click here.