12.26.2007

TS - 12/06/2007 What is a criminal grand jury?

TS What is a criminal grand jury?12/06/2007

Grand jury proceedings by law are held in secret, although a judge can allow the sessions to be open to the public upon the request of the district attorney.

In the grand jury process, because the role of the 19 members is only to determine probable cause to bring an indictment, it is not required for them to hear all the evidence. It is left to the “good faith of the prosecutor to present conflicting evidence,” according to the American Bar Association. No judge is present during the sessions. A minimum of 12 of the jurors must approve indictments.

While grand jurors are chosen from the same pool as other trials, the prosecutor is prohibited from screening them for bias. Only questions dealing with qualifications to serve are permitted, such as whether a potential juror is a citizen of the U.S., or is 18 years of age or older.

Although a prosecutor can take any case to the grand jury, a guide to the California criminal grand jury lists 14 types of cases generally given high priority. One is “police use-of-force cases resulting in . . . death.”

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