© greg hannan| hannangregory@gmail.com 902 825 3534 | Nova Scotia | Canada
Hannan Greg
There is necessary background beyond this narrative that reflects a decade of chaos. In Winter/Spring of 1990 I was summoned to serve on a Federal Grand Jury. I remember uselessly hiding behind a pillar in the crowded auditorium who’s relatively few selected members would comprise the three Grand Juries serving the criminal courts for the next three to four months. A group of clerks appeared behind a microphone and in their spokesman's first utterance he said, "Federal Grand Jury Number One: Gregory Hannan, Foreman, Washington, D.C had at the time, and for some years as well, the distinction of being the 'murder capital' of the country, with 450-500 homicides per annum in a city with a population under 600,000 people. Crack had exploded onto the street, poisoning the black population demographic in particular. A Grand Jury is comprised of 23 members. Its officers include a foreman, sub-foreman and secretary. The foreman leads the proceedings and of utmost importance during the course of empanel-ment must remind the body of the irrelevance of guilt or innocence in cases provided by the prosecution. The panels' sole purpose in hearing ’the whole' of federal prosecution evidence is to determine whether each case presentation of witness testimony and forensic evidence merits a trial (indictment) or dismissal from further prosecution pursuit. The Grand Jury is also empowered (delivered an onus) to indict any prosecution witness whose sworn testimony during procedure is suspected of committing perjury (lying) or reveals an additional offense not under current review. As would foreshadow our coming ordeal, on our first afternoon in session an 88 year old grandmother would lie to us as to the whereabouts of her grandson (sitting with her on the porch) while he was actively engaged at the same time in a firefight using an automatic weapon against two cops in the alley behind the house. That night I swam laps at the YMCA alongside a casual acquaintance/swimmer who I knew to be an assistant prosecuting attorney. In the shallows I remarked in frustration and anxiety, "I just had an eighty year old woman perjure herself in front of me today"...to which she calmly replied, “Let it go." A Grand Jury must have a quorum of its members seated and must produce a majority vote to secure an indictment. However, in the real world of criminal prosecution, any majority vote of less than 17 members of the optimum 23 seated will perhaps not result in a subsequent trial. This becomes gradual knowledge to its members and often sets the stage for internal conflict.
I was one of two individuals who was white on Grand Jury #1 and I was the foreman in a racially charged time. Grand Jury #1 had the distinction (unknown to us) of being the only one of three Grand Juries operating that did not have an attorney as a member. As a result, we were charged with deliberating on the most celebrated case of gang homicide/ carnage in the city's history- U.S. vs. Rayful Edmonds, and we labored under the threat of sequestration (living under isolated protection) which never resulted. But in our daily deliberations, our 'Rayful hours' did not begin until 3:00 each afternoon. The rest of the day/term was spent reviewing evidence of some of the most graphically disturbing incidents of one's imagination. We reviewed 381 other Class 'A' felonies of which approximately 70 were homicides and twice that number just godawful in scope that did not result in death, and often-times left us weeping, especially when children were involved as victims or witnesses. We were (unknowingly) dubbed- the 'hanging jury' because of the absence of an attorney member- and given the worst of the cases. In the first month of operation, I had two women jurors removed for continually and obviously voting against evidence. The jury membership erupted with half vehemently against my position. The chief prosecutor was called in and charged with quelling the revolt and coaxing us back into a unit. One juror snapped out "Why is HE foreman?" ...the attorney replied, "Because of his experience." I went home that night confused and enraged. I had been a narcotics treatment official in the city, more than 20 years previous to this position/this moment, before the advent of computers. It was immediately obvious to me the prosecutor's office had scanned my past, resulting in their choice of me as foreman. This is contrary to the rule of law-I guess I could have (rightfully) ended my tenure the next day. In the following months, three members of the jury would lose a son to homicide, seemingly one after another. Grief, rage, and an efficient 'dispatch' of cases governed our days; so much that two of my female jurors who had been among the most vehement opponents against me, as well as the system itself, applied for admission to the police academy. Rayful Edmonds received a homicide indictment, though never went to trial for those offenses. He was convicted of several counts of racketeering (under the RICOH statutes) and received two consecutive terms of life without parole....which he serves. It is only a 'crap-shoot' in my memory that one case dogged me to attempt an illustration out of those we saw and heard.
NIGHT HERON At lunch time the cafeteria in the basement of the federal office building that houses the prosecuting attorneys' office as well Grand Jury chambers ...is a strange place, filled with all participants of both congruent and opposing sides of criminal procedure-who cannot speak of their endeavors publicly under penalty of law. In front of me at the cashier line stood a woman whose face had been dis-figured...who emitted tentative noises co- inciding with her gestures-sliding her tray, searching in her purse. Her response to the cashier was whispy/hushed in tone. As she moved on to find a seat in the expansive, crowded room she continuously looked over her shoulder seemingly at no one, and as I watched, she pulled out her chair and stood above it-staring at the seat cautiously as if it might hurt her in some way....then she sat and stared off in sadness. Two hours later this woman was sworn in before us. The case attorney came in before her and cautioned us as to her emotional state. She had been seated at a bar in Alexandria for some time one night in conversations with several men. She was already intoxicated when she engaged in a conversation with still another man near to last call. She's white. He's black. He invites her to come with him to continue partying in D.C. and she readily agrees, though she asks where they are going- he's evasive. In the course of diving across the Wilson Bridge from Virginia to Maryland he tells her he's going first to score some drugs in Anacostia. She says she doesn't do drugs and doesn't want to be part of his activity. While driving he ignores her as her protestations become louder, to the point of screaming at him to let her out of the car. In Anacostia he pulls over his car, hits her...opens her door and throwing her on a sidewalk abutting a long overgrown/vacant lot. Then he drives away. Somehow in the incident her shoes came off in the car, and in her drunken state-seated she curled herself-clasped her knees, buried her head and sobbed loudly. After an immeasurable lapse of time there she suddenly heard footsteps then felt two hands slip under each of her armpits clamping her chest, and then dragging her backwards like a ragdoll out of streetlamp glare into a darkening tangle of trash and bushes. It was there she was slugged, then cut with a knife as her clothes were torn off her and raped to a point where her last image of her attacker was he…. kneeling above her slamming a large stone down into her face.... At that same instant, her attacker screamed as another figure, in the darkness, drove a knife into the man's back, then disappeared. She was found with her attacker dead on top of her...all the evidence lying around them. The 'person' before us...was no longer....and I deeply regretted that she had 'lived' beyond her ordeal.
NIGHT HERON 1997 found wood/text on panel 17" x 14" x 3 1/2" Artist collection