grand jury length
April 6, 2006 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Why is grand jury duty so long?

I know that it varies state to state but most places you are asked to serve at least a month.
posted by mmm to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Though a poor example because it was the longest criminal trial in California history, the OJ trial lasted five months.

Sometimes that's how long it takes. Sometimes - rarely - it takes even longer.
posted by ChasFile at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2006

But the OJ criminal trial was a trial jury, not a grand jury, right?
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:02 AM on April 6, 2006

Because it a bit of training and more knowledge than regular jury duty. It would be impractical to impanel a grand jury for a day.
posted by deadfather at 7:02 AM on April 6, 2006

posted by deadfather at 7:02 AM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: What kind of training?
posted by mmm at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2006

Grand Juries have different rules from a jury trial- they listen to every bit of evidence the prosecutor has, from the germane to the nearly inadmissable, in an effort to decide what charges, if any, should be filed against a defendant. Rather than honing a case down to "everything relevant to murder one", the prosecutor presents everything that could possibly *be* relevant to the crime, to allow the grand jury the opportunity to indict on every count they believe was a part of the body of the crime.

So if I grab somebody off the street, point a gun at their head, push them into a car I stole earlier, drive them across state lines, sexually assault and kill them, then sexually assault the corpse, which I then mutilate and dispose of by throwing it into a farmer's hog pen, the grand jury hears all of that, then hears all the related evidence to: kidnapping, grand theft, assault and battery, sexual assault, all the sub-versions of sexual assault, murder, felony murder, abuse of a corpse, illegal dumping, trespassing, any weapons charges related to my legal or illegal ownership of that gun (and it opens up the possibility of federal charges for violating the Mann Act and violating my victim's civil rights.) The grand jury decides whether there is evidence to indict me for ALL of that (probably not,) and/or what the evidence indicates that I should be indicted for, if anything.

Short version: WAY more evidence and testimony takes WAY more time.
posted by headspace at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2006

Short answer: Petit (i.e. "regular") juries exist for the benefit of the defendant, by taking the job of evaluating objective and subjective evidence out of the hands of the legal expert (the judge) and into the hands of a jury of his peers. Grand juries exist for the benefit of the prosecutor, and by extension, the people. Both the prosecutor and the grand jury essentially conduct parallel investigations; they check each other's work. Because there is almost no judicial review of strategic or tactical decisions made by prosecutors, the grand jury process is like a microcosmic system of checks and balances.

In federal courts, a US Attorney may impanel a grand jury for 18 months, and can request a 6 month extension above that for a protracted investigation. Typically the grand jury meets three to five days a month. To bring the case to trial, the grand jury must return an indictment that is signed by both the prosecutor and the grand jury foreperson. Either side has veto power over the other. If the grand jury refuses to indict, the prosecutor can't act unilaterally; similarly, the grand jury isn't authorized to do anything without being first asked to do so by the prosecutor.

In state courts, YMMV - typically the terms of impanelment will be shorter and the rules are different.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: thanks
posted by mmm at 6:03 AM on April 7, 2006

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