What Does a Georgia Grand Jury Do
A grand jury is just one step in the criminal justice process. This article explains its role, function, and purpose.
A grand jury is a body of citizens who are assembled to judge a prosecutor’s presentation which seeks to justify bringing criminal charges against someone. The jury is the audience for prosecutor, and any witnesses, to lay out their version of the facts of the case. After the presentation, the members vote on whether or not they believe that sufficient evidence exists to bring criminal charges. It may be used for federal or certain state criminal matters.
Per the Justice.gov website, “States are not required to charge by use of a grand jury. Many do, but the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to only require the federal government to use grand juries for all felony crimes (federal misdemeanor charges do not have to come from the federal grand jury).”1
Jury proceedings in Georgia are used for capital cases, which involve crimes like murder, rape, or kidnapping. In order to get an indictment prosecutors must present their case and convince the jury members of the need to bring criminal charges. In Georgia, this consists of 16-23 jurors randomly selected citizens within the county where the crime is being tried.
Grand Jurors are enlisted for a specific amount of time and meet to consider several cases. For a case where you are charged with a capital crime, the jury listens to the evidence presented and has to decide whether there is a probable cause with the evidence presented. The defense does not show evidence during the grand jury hearing. It is up to the prosecutors to present the evidence a crime has been committed by the defendant.
Per a page on Wikipedia, “All grand jury proceedings are conducted behind closed doors, without a presiding judge. The prosecutors are tasked with arranging for the appearance of witnesses, as well as drafting the order in which they are called, and take part in the questioning of witnesses. The targets of the grand jury or their lawyers have no right to appear before a grand jury unless they are invited, nor do they have a right to present exculpatory evidence.”2
Unlike aregular trial jury, a grand jury decision does not have to be unanimous – it only requires a vote of 12 or more of the jurors. Also, not all 23 have to be present, just 16 have to be there to hear the case. A positive vote to support the indictment will move forward the case go to trial, or they vote the evidence was not convincing and no charges will be brought against the defendant.