3 Things You Need To Know About Grand Juries

Lawyer Talk: Off the Record

03-04-2023 • 6 mins

The grand jury system is an important aspect of the American criminal justice system. As Steve Palmer, host of the Lawyer Talk podcast, points out in this episode, the grand jury is a group of jurors assembled by the county prosecutor to vote on whether there is enough evidence to indict someone on a felony. However, the grand jury system is not without controversy and questions about its fairness and transparency have been raised.

One of the biggest issues with the grand jury system is the prosecutor's control over the proceedings. As Steve notes, the prosecutor has control over the proceedings and can present the case in a way that incorporates obvious defenses to prevent an indictment. This means that defendants do not have the same rights they would have in a trial by jury within a courtroom. For example, defendants do not have the right to appear in front of a grand jury and testify in their own case. While some prosecutors may invite defendants to testify, it is not a guaranteed right.

However, witnesses can be subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury and have the right to an attorney. The attorney cannot be present in the grand jury room but can advise the witness outside the room and the witness can assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if their responses may incriminate them. This is an important protection for witnesses who may be intimidated or coerced into providing false or misleading testimony.

Another issue with the grand jury system is its secrecy. As Steve points out, grand jury proceedings are done in secret and are not a trial by jury within a courtroom. While this secrecy is meant to protect the integrity of the investigation, it also means that defendants and their attorneys do not have access to the evidence presented to the grand jury. This lack of transparency can make it difficult for defendants to mount an effective defense and can contribute to a perception of unfairness.

Despite these concerns, grand juries have enormous power, particularly on the federal level, and can issue subpoenas for information and testimony. This power has been used in high-profile cases, such as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. However, the grand jury system remains controversial and questions about its fairness and transparency are likely to continue.

The grand jury system is an important aspect of the American criminal justice system, but it is not without controversy. As Steve notes, the prosecutor's control over the proceedings, lack of transparency, and limited rights for defendants are all issues that have been raised about the grand jury system. While grand juries have enormous power, there is a need for continued scrutiny and debate about how they are used and whether they are fair and transparent.

Submit your questions to www.lawyertalkpodcast.com.

Recorded at Channel 511, a production of 511 South High Media LLC.

Stephen E. Palmer, Esq. has been practicing criminal defense almost exclusively since 1995. He has represented people in federal, state, and local courts in Ohio and elsewhere.

Though he focuses on all areas of criminal defense, he particularly enjoys complex cases in state and federal courts.

He has unique experience handling and assembling top defense teams of attorneys and experts in cases involving allegations of child abuse (false sexual allegations, false physical abuse allegations), complex scientific cases involving allegations of DUI and vehicular homicide cases with blood alcohol tests, and any other criminal cases that demand jury trial experience.

Steve has unique experience handling numerous high publicity cases that have garnered national attention.

For more information about Steve...

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