When we think about juries, we think about them delivering verdicts, but this is not the case when it comes to grand juries. Grand juries deliver indictments instead, which are written statements that relay the criminal charges against the accused (if he or she is, indeed, indicted).
The job of the grand jury itself is actually to “true bill” the case before it, and the prosecutor writes the formal statement that is called an indictment. The indictment is the means by which a criminal court gains jurisdiction over a criminal case. There are both state and federal grand juries. These grand juries are the primary path forward when the prosecution is attempting to issue a felony criminal indictment at the state or federal level.
The Grand Jury
The grand jury’s job is to determine whether there is probable cause to move forward with a criminal charge. All of the following apply:
These hearings are not public. Instead, they take place behind closed doors.
Only the prosecution presents evidence in these hearings.
The defense attorney does not call witnesses.
The accused has no legal right to know that the prosecution is presenting evidence against him or her to the grand jury and has no legal right to participate in the process.
Criminal defense attorneys universally lament the overwhelming influence prosecutors have over grand juries and their indictment power.
In a criminal trial, both the prosecution and the defense participate in the voir dire process, which means questioning potential jurors in an effort to root out undue bias. For the grand jury, however, the defense has no such right to question or interview potential jurors – who will be determining whether or not there is probable cause to move forward with the felony charge. In fact, the identity of these jurors is kept from the defense attorney. In 2015, Texas law did away with what had come to be known as the “pick a pal” system, which allowed prosecutors to handpick friends and colleagues to be on grand juries (as reported by the Texas Tribune).
There are additional concerns when it comes to defense attorneys, their clients, and grand juries, including:
The prosecutor is not obligated to present exculpatory evidence (evidence in favor of the defendant).
The grand jury’s vote for indictment need not be unanimous (only 9 of the 12 jurors must vote for the indictment).
No judge presides over grand jury hearings.
If the threat of criminal charges looms, you need a criminal defense lawyer on your side.
Seek the Professional Legal Counsel You Need from a Dedicated Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been indicted by a grand jury and are facing a criminal charge of any kind, it is time to consult with an accomplished criminal defense lawyer like Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas. Mr. Pritchard’s focus is on bringing your strongest defense – in support of your legal rights and your best possible case resolution. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.