Delays in Probe Understandable

A grand jury inquiry into what has come to be known as “the Steubenville rape case” is proceeding with what some may consider excruciating slowness. After an initial meeting in May, the panel has spent more time waiting for state investigators than it has in session.

Another two days of work occurred this week before the grand jury recessed again. A spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said the panel will not meet again until Aug. 12.

The cautious pace is understandable in view of the complexity and importance of what grand jurors are looking into. They were called into session, in effect, to discover whether adults are culpable in the rape of a teenager by two other teenagers last year.

It is known beyond a shadow of doubt that at least one adult committed a crime that helped set the stage for the rape. It occurred after what some in the press have referred to as “an alcohol-fueled party.”

Someone had to have furnished the alcohol consumed by the three teenagers involved directly in the case and by many others present at the party that night.

Another, much more controversial, issue is before grand jurors, however. It is whether adults – possibly including some employed by the Steubenville school system – became aware of the rape after it occurred but did not notify the authorities. That is more than morally wrong; in Ohio, it is a crime.

A young girl’s life was changed drastically and irreversibly when she was assaulted. The two teenage boys involved are paying a price for what they did.

It is important – nay, vital – that any adults who contributed to the crime by furnishing juveniles with alcohol be punished. It also is vital that any adults who learned of the assault but, actively or passively, tried to cover it up be brought to justice.

We don’t envy members of the Jefferson County grand jury dealing with the case. Theirs is an extremely difficult task. No matter what they decide, some will say they did too much, while others will criticize them for not doing enough.

By agreeing to serve on the grand jury, all its members have dedicated themselves to seeking justice. In view of that, the slow pace of the panel’s work is entirely understandable.