When you hear about criminal cases on television or read about them online, you might see the term grand jury. This is a very important part of the criminal justice system, so anyone who might be facing charges should understand some basic points about what this is.
Unlike the trial jury, the grand jury isn’t here to determine if you are guilty of a crime. Instead, they review the prosecutor’s case to determine if a charge is appropriate. The grand jury is a larger jury than the trial jury. There are usually 23 people on this type. The group might be set for months at a time, but they don’t hear cases daily like a trial jury.
The grand jurors work with the prosecutor. These proceedings are often more relaxed than a trial, but the jurors still have to pay close attention to what is going on.
Another primary difference between grand jury hearings and trials is that the witnesses are encouraged to speak freely during grand jury proceedings. These are held in confidence, so there isn’t a record of what is said. This means that witnesses can speak without having to worry about who is going to find out what was said.
When a grand jury makes a recommendation about a criminal matter to the prosecutor, that decision isn’t final. The prosecutor can opt to ignore what the grand jury recommended or they can move forward with the recommendation. This is a big difference from a trial jury because the court has to accept the verdict of the trial jury and that decision can only be ignored if an appeals court throws it out.