A primer on juries

Ohio State professor explains grand jury proceedings
Melissa Topey
Jul 25, 2014

 

topey@sanduskyregister.com

It's a civil obligation of every voter, but there's still mystery surrounding the power of a jury, a grand jury or even a special grand jury.

Potential jurors are called to service by way of the voter registrations in each Ohio county. Most who get a summons are likely being called to serve on a petit jury, otherwise known as a trial jury.

They will listen to evidence and decide an outcome of a single case. They serve for as long as that case is heard.

In a criminal case involving a felony the law requires 12 jurors to decide if there is evidence to prove someone is guilty of a crime, said Ric Simmons, a law professor at The Ohio State University.

A case involving a misdemeanor requires six jurors, he said.

Then there is a grand jury, such as the recent Sandusky County grand jury that heard the case of Craig Burdine.

A grand jury is made up of nine jurors and five alternates, Simmons said.

The grand jury members will sit for either a three- or four-month period. In Sandusky County they sit for four months.

During that time grand jurors hear many cases in rapid fire session. They determine only whether someone should be indicted or charged with a crime, Simmons said. They make this decision based on evidence presented to them from a prosecutor, and any witnesses the prosecutors choose to call. It is the prosecutor who also provides grand jurors information on which criminal charges might apply given the evidence. 

The person whose case is before a grand jury often is not called to testify.

A grand jury, most often the same people, can become an investigative grand jury. That means they can take weeks or months to hear a case. Grand jurors can use subpoena powers to build a case and decide whether there is enough cause to charge someone.

In Ohio grand juries are to operate in secret, meaning no one is to know who the grand jury members are. Witness names also are not revealed beforehand.

Neither the grand jury nor the attorney general prosecutor are to discuss anyone's testimony or what they think of the case.

Witnesses can talk about their testimony afterwards, Simmons said.

It is unfortunate but more often then not witnesses are called to testify at a general time on a certain day, leading to witnesses being corralled together.

There is no law to prevent a witness from talking about the case beforehand, even though a prosecutor would not want them to and would advise witnesses against it, Simmons said. In most cases there is no one monitoring the waiting witnesses, he said.

The prosecutor runs the show, choosing juror members and who he will call to testify.

 

Comments

Sal Dali

"The prosecutor runs the show, choosing juror members and who he will call to testify."
Think I said that and understood it that way as well. The grand jury didn't have to subpoena those eyewitnesses, the prosecutor should/could have and didn't. Or does some disagree with the facts in this article?

Babo

Yes, the prosecutor if he were truly interested in a complete investigation and serving justice should have subpoenaed the eye witnesses. The fact that he did not indicates the Grand Jury investigation was incomplete.

Also, the reporter seems to indicate that the professor stated that "prosecutors run the show" but the investigative Grand Jury may issue their own subpoenas. Prosecutors do run the show but that's only because the people have let the executive branch usurp their power in the grand jury and the legal industry has been happy to take that power from the people and turn grand juries into "shows". In any event, prosecutors do not select grand jurors.

Under our system, a prosecutor is supposed to seek the truth and to do justice. Those duties would require a prosecutor not interfere with a grand jury's investigation by willfully omitting presenting relevant evidence such as eyewitness testimony to the investigation.
Unfortunately, prosecutors are also politicians and they don't necessarily act in the interests of the people they are supposed to serve but in advancing some political agenda.

Julian

It doesn't matter. Point is, the only reason this article was written is because the SR is irate over Burdine

Babo

I disagree. The article provides information that critical thinking people ought to be very concerned about as it demonstrates an intentional undermining of the grand jury's duty to investigate the custodial death of Craig Burdine by the willful withholding of relevant evidence i.e. eyewitness testimony from the Grand jury by the prosecutor.