Individuals who are unfamiliar with the criminal process may not know the difference between a trial jury and a grand jury. These two juries play very different roles and occur at different times during criminal procedures.
Therefore, these are some things to know about grand juries.
Grand jury composition and timing
Traditional trial juries have six to 12 people. These individuals sit through the formal trial to determine whether a suspect is guilty or not guilty. However, 16 to 23 people serve on grand juries. The grand jury occurs just after an arrest. The jurors determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence or cause to pursue a trial.
Grand jury hearings
The prosecutors, grand jurors, court reporter, defendant and witnesses are typically the only individuals allowed in grand jury proceedings. Although the defendant can present evidence of his or her evidence, the defending attorneys are not present. These hearings are less adversarial because the judge and defense attorney are not present.
Trial juries require unanimous decisions of guilt or innocence. Any discrepancy results in a hung jury and a possible mistrial or retrial. In a grand jury situation, the decision is the result of the majority of the jurors. Therefore, unanimous agreement is unnecessary. Therefore, only nine in a 16-person jury or 12 in a 23-person grand jury need to agree that the prosecution has sufficient evidence or cause for a trial to commence.
Trials require that the prosecution and defense adhere to specific evidence, exhibit and admission rules. However, grand juries do not have these requirements. In fact, the prosecution can present almost anything.
A grand jury is similar to a preliminary hearing, but in the states that use them, it is important to know how they differ from these hearings and trials.