I got a notice to report for Grand Jury duty, the kind where D.A.'s seek indictments. Since grand juries usually only hear the prosecutor’s side of the story, how do I determine whether a valid case has been made or not? (And bad indictments do happen.)
I did grand jury duty, and as was explained to us, our job was to determine if there was sufficient evidence to take the case to trial. For some, we only saw documents, for some, we got to speak with the arresting/investigating officers.
The biggest problem was reminding people that we were not there to determine guilt or innocence. One idiot woman wouldn’t or couldn’t remember this. Thank goodness for majority rule.
I thought it was fascinating, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Your job is to determine whether probable cause exists.
I did federal grand jury duty, and it’s as other’s have said. We were there to decide if there was going to be a trial. It takes the pressure off. Stricter rules apply to the regular trial.
The votes were majority votes, not unanimous.
Since our cases were federal they were mostly firearms or drug. Sometimes both. One was a multistate bankruptcy case, and one was sex related. The latter was federal because it had occured at a junior high located on a military base.
What I don’t like about the Grand jury process is the prosecutor often tries to make the accused look as bad as possible, even when there is actually insufficient evidence. And the defendant is not allowed to be there to attend the proceedings.
Once the Grand jury chooses to indict, that empowers the Judge to have the defendant held in remand (in jail). Defendants can spend many months in prison awaiting all the preparations to be made for their trial if they cannot afford the bail. (usually between 4 to 14 months before the trial even begins) I actually was denied bail (even though I had turned myself in!) all because some detectives and/or the prosecutor distorted things to make me look bad (even though no crime had even taken place). Of course, I cannot be sure what exactly was said during those proceedings because they never unsealed the transcripts from the Grand Jury proceedings.
So you can see why I would be a little jaded about the Grand Jury process.
If I was already being held without bail, what was the point of not letting me attend the proceedings?
Btw, the case was eventually dismissed, over a YEAR later…
What’s the threshold? Could I reason “This could have happened, but its really not likely” and vote to no indict? Or are you basically asked “Is there a way this could possibly happen?” and if its yes, you should indict?
I got to do grand jury a few years back at the county level here in the US. While interesting, it was a pain in the ass. We had to come in one day a week for 8 or 9 weeks. We got paid 5 dollars for the day, but it cost me more to get to the courthouse than that. There were no good restaurants nearby either, so I ate too much McDonalds.
On the plus side, most of the cases were assault, fleeing police, and drug charges. Another grand jury got all of the child abuse, rape, and murder charges. I don’t think they had much fun. If you think that maybe you can get out of it, think again. If you speak any English and are breathing, you are on the jury. A couple of people had legitimate conflicts, and they were given other jury duty at another time.
I would say that over 90% of the cases that we heard resulted in indictments. Most cases had a police man give the evidence that they had. A lot of them were from drug stakeouts, so they had observed the drug deal go down and made arrests accordingly. Police chase had a vehicle description and tag number and the person was usually caught shortly thereafter. Assaults had victim statements and physical evidence that something happened. There were only a few that seemed to be of the “he said, she said” variety.
When a case is presented, they say what the charges are. They then read from the state codes what those charges mean. They could skip the reading if we already heard the charge before. Then a person, usually a policeman, gives the evidence. Then the jury can ask questions, if things aren’t clear. Then a vote on the charges.
I did Grand Jury many years ago (in fact that was where I was on September 11th 2001). At the time the prosecutor told us that if we felt like there wasn’t enough evidence we should abstain and not vote Not Guilty. I am pretty sure in hindsight that was sleazy of the Prosecutor but at the time that is what every one did.
It was kind of fun in some ways. You become friendly with he rest of the jurors because you see them so much but the cases were mostly boring. About 99% of them were drug cases. The one interesting one that stuck out in my memory was a bust of a “Massage Parlor”. The undercover cop had to testify how he asked for the Happy Ending and stopped short of getting it.
I was on a grand jury a few years ago and found it quite interesting.
The GJ’s purpose is to be sure the prosecution doesn’t abuse his/her power by sending someone to a trial when there really isn’t enough evidence. That’s why most of the time the GJ returns an indictment; if there isn’t good evidence the prosecution will not even bring the case to the GJ.
We had one case in which the jurors were very divided as to whether to indict, and eventually the vote was no bill. As I recall the prosecutors seemed really p.o.'d although they didn’t express it. In another case, for some reason a GJ was required for some reason and the prosecutors definitely telegraphed that they didn’t want an indictment, and we were glad to agree.
We got to hear multiple cases each day. Usually we were done before noon, and I went in to work, but a few times it was early- to mid-afternoon and I just went home.
We served one day a week for IIRC 16 weeks, but the court had no problem giving anyone time off for a day if there was a real conflict. In fact, I had a previously scheduled and paid-for vacation the coincided with the first two weeks of service and there was absolutely no problem with my not being present on those days.