Neronha: RI needs law that could shed light on grand jury investigations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic candidate for attorney general Peter Neronha says Rhode Island needs a law that would allow for what’s called a “grand jury report” in high-profile cases that don’t result in charges.

Neronha said the law would legally allow the release of material – possibly including grand jury testimony and evidence – in such investigations as the 38 Studios criminal probe.

“There is a mechanism in the law that other states have that I think we need to consider which is the grand jury report,” Neronha said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “It makes recommendations on how things can improve.”

Neronha said the report would be drafted by prosecutors and approved by the grand jury. Those who are targets of a probe or testified before the secretive hearings could object to the release of the report, but a judge would ultimately decide.

“We have never had that law here and I am convinced it may be time to have such a law,” he said. “In the right case – and 38 Studios in my belief is the right case – for the story to get out.”

A similar law was utilized following the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. A grand jury declined to charge police officer Darren Wilson, and soon after the prosecutor in the case made public the evidence presented to the grand jury.

Last month Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law requiring the disclosure of documents from the 38 Studios criminal investigation.

But Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has strongly objected to the documents’ release, citing the importance of grand-jury secrecy. In June he successfully petitioned Superior Court Justice Robert Krause to issue a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of the bill. His spokeswoman, Amy Kempe, said at the time the order would “allow the state to seek a legal determination as to what is required and what is prohibited from being released.”

Neronha announced his run for attorney general earlier this month; Kilmartin cannot seek the position again because of term limits. So far, no other candidate has officially entered the race.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Ted Nesi contributed to this report