The investigation into criminal matters takes time in some cases. For certain charges, the prosecutors spearheading the case will turn to the grand jury to determine if the evidence in a case is sufficient for charges to be levied.
The grand jury is a much different jury than a trial jury, so anyone who is involved in the criminal justice system must be familiar with the differences. This can help you to better understand what is going on.
Number of jurors
The grand jury is larger than a trial juror. The grand jury has a total of 23 jurors that sit on it, but there might be as few as 12. The trial jury has anywhere from 6 to 12 jurors that sit on it.
Length of juror service
Members of the grand jury work a few days per month. They typically serve for months at a time and hear multiple cases. Members of a trial jury are chosen for a specific case. They serve each day that the case is being heard until the final resolution. This can be as short as a few hours or as long as many weeks.
Selection of jurors
Members of the grand jury and trial jury are chosen from the same pool. The members of the grand jury usually don’t go through intensive questioning by the judge or attorneys. Members of the trial jury are often subjected to intensive questioning. The process of selecting the grand jury is much more relaxed than the process of selecting a trial jury.
Location and function of the jurors
The grand jury usually meets in a large room without a presiding judge. These jurors hear any evidence present in a case to determine if there is enough to warrant a criminal charge. Trial jurors meet in a formal court room with a presiding judge. They only hear evidence that is presented in accordance with the rules of procedure for criminal cases. Trial jurors decide on whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges placed against them.
Decision of the jurors
Prosecutors aren’t bound by the decision of the grand jury. If the prosecutor disagrees with the decision of the grand jury, they can go against the decision and still decide to file charges. Conversely, prosecutors are bound by the decision of a trial jury. If the trial jury finds the defendant not guilty, the prosecutor can’t decide to retry the case in front of a new jury.