California Criminal Grand Jury Selection Process
August 2, 2006 10:46 PM   Subscribe

California Criminal Grand Jury Selection Process: Can anyone tell me what the prosecutor and judge are looking for as they question and choose who in the pool is selected to serve? The questionnaire asked if you've previously served on a jury and, if so, if you were foreperson. Does having already served on a jury and/or been jury foreperson help or hinder?

I'm wondering if they were looking for certain backgrounds, personality traits, experience, etc.
posted by trixare4kids to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Well, obviously you should answer truthfully. If one of the grand jury members lies on the questionnaire, I imagine that one of the lawyers might be able to get the whole thing thrown out.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 PM on August 2, 2006

You assume my question has something to do with deceiving the court in some manner, which is NOT the case. I was just curious.
posted by trixare4kids at 10:53 PM on August 2, 2006

Having served on a jury, in and of itself, doesn't help or hinder -- as i understand, what they are looking to consider is whether you served on a similar case (or cases), and (if so) if the jury you were on was able to reach a verdict. (Having served as a foreperson goes to your personaiity trait as a leader, I believe.) It's just one of many, many factors that go into the complex equation of how each side guesstimates you might be likely to weigh the arguments they present.
posted by scody at 11:06 PM on August 2, 2006

(d'oh, hit post too soon!) To give a more concrete example, say you're being considered for a jury in a murder case. If you've previously served on a jury in a civil case, both sides will probably consider that irrelevant. But if you've already been on a jury in another murder case, your experience as a jury member (and the outcome of deliberations) will suddenly become more relevant.
posted by scody at 11:09 PM on August 2, 2006

lie on this and go to jail

there is usually a time period in which you are exempt from jury duty after your last jury duty, check the form or the web
posted by caddis at 11:10 PM on August 2, 2006

Folks, the OP is asking about grand jury selection criteria, which are nothing like normal trial juries, and don't work by the adversarial voire dire process. There are links to several official explanations, by county, of California grand jury selection processes, from this Google search.

Generally, a grand jury is an investigative body that works in conjunction with the prosecutor's office to produce indictments of felony crimes for trial. The purpose of the grand jury system is to assure that prosecutions are based on reasonable standards of evidence, and that prosecutors are bringing cases to the courts worth the expense and anguish of criminal trial.
posted by paulsc at 11:16 PM on August 2, 2006

If you've previously served, particularly as a foreman, they can get a good insight into what your thought processes and values look like. On the basis of that, one side may want you or want to veto you from the jury.

The classic example from 50 years ago is the prosecution vetoing all black people from juries on cases where a bunch of white kids had killed/raped some black person. That's extreme and I'm sure they'd not get away with it today but you get the idea: each side wants a jury that will be sympathetic to their side of the case.
posted by polyglot at 11:20 PM on August 2, 2006

I think I need to be a little more clear here. First, no one is talking about lying or deception of any kind here.

Second, a California Criminal Grand Jury is NOT the same thing as a regular jury that sits for a trail and decides the innocence or guilt of a defendant. The criminal grand jury works specifically with the prosecutor only, therefor it would seem that the requirements of a criminal grand juror may be a little different than if one were being selected for a regular trial juror.

"California is served by a unique system, which provides that the Criminal Grand Jury may be impaneled and empowered by law to bring indictments (which are formal charges of generally felony crimes) and also to perform criminal investigations in connection with these indictments. The Criminal Grand Jury will consist of 23 members plus a designated number of alternates."
posted by trixare4kids at 11:21 PM on August 2, 2006

Again folks, the question is about grand jury service. Presumably, responses to any questions about previous service on a regular jury would go towards understanding whether the respondent truly understood the traditional criminal trial system, and could form a full opinion of the investigative process at any earlier, less evidentiary complete stage.

Serving on a grand jury is considered in some jurisdictions to be a minor civic honor. The term of grand jury is usually from several months to a year, and not everyone in the community can bear the burden of service, which is usually only partly reimbursed. And not everyone should serve on a grand jury, as it is both an investigative body, and a body that passes judgement on investigators. You have to have respect for the people's need to prosecute criminals, and for the process that keeps all free men from being arbitrarily declared criminals by people who simply don't like them.
posted by paulsc at 11:29 PM on August 2, 2006

paulsc, thanks for that clarification - I would just like to also point out that I am not talking about the regular, civil grand jury. I am speaking about the criminal grand jury which is a totally different animal.

A description of each from the Los Angeles Superior Court
posted by trixare4kids at 11:33 PM on August 2, 2006

To answer your questions, trixare4kids, I don't know that previous service on a trial jury, or lack thereof, will have a direct bearing on selection for grand jury service, but it might. Because of the direct importance of trial juries to case law, the procedures for juror selection and randomization are pretty clear, and open to constant scrutiny. In the 1990's, I lived in a suburban county of Atlanta, and in 2001 that county had to shut down criminal trials for several months, as it revamped its procedures for jury selection, to eliminate racial bias, on orders of a Federal District Court.

In that county, appointment to the criminal grand jury was very selective, and the prosecutor's office had a great deal of input. After the new system for regular juror selection was implemented, I can't say grand juries in that county looked much different, but then again, the only way you generally knew much about the composition of the grand jury in that county, was to visit the courthouse at lunchtime, when the grand jurors, unnamed, would file out for lunch. I never saw a latino, and I never saw an Asian person serving, but then, I didn't see every grand juror there in the years from 1990 to 2002, when I moved away.
posted by paulsc at 12:15 AM on August 3, 2006

I am reading The Prosecutors, and the DAs say that they like jurors who have been the foreperson on a previous trial because it shows that people look up to and trust them.
posted by clh at 10:06 AM on August 3, 2006

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