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Questions about Grand Jury

Grand jury duty is a serious responsibility for citizens. It gives each citizen the power in criminal cases to decide whether an individual should be indicted or whether there is insufficient “probable cause” to put the individual on trial. This is done based on the evidence or proof that is presented to the juror by the prosecution. To understand better, below are common questions answered by Experts about grand jury duty.

What is the duty of the grand jury? What information is presented to them? Is the defense attorney allowed in the grand jury room along with the defendant?

The duty of the grand jury is to assess the evidence and witnesses presented by the prosecution to arrive upon a decision to indict or not. The grand jury meets in secrecy to examine the evidence chosen and presented by the persecutor. This grand jury process is not the actual trial but a medium for the prosecution to present evidence and for the jury to determine whether the individual should stand trial. The information that is shared with the grand jury is as per the discretion of the district attorney and they decide and choose what they inform the grand jury. This is with respect to evidence as well as past information of the accused. The accused is permitted a chance to confront his/her accusers or request speedy trial only if the grand jury formally charges him/her. The defense attorney is not allowed in the grand jury room. If there is an indictment the defense attorney can organize a “discovery process” to contact witnesses.

How can I know the conclusion of the grand jury investigation?

Usually a grand jury investigation is conducted in secrecy. The outcome will not be made public until the investigation is concluded. A notification will be sent to the concerned parties if the grand jury returns with an indictment. You could try talking to the U.S. Attorney but in most cases they cannot reveal any information until the grand jury has concluded.

Is there a way to obtain the testimony of the grand jury?

Usually a grand jury testimony is not a public record and is therefore not available. In most cases the grand jury testimony is not recorded and is not maintained as part of the record. In some cases it may not be considered as part of the full suit itself and probably will have no impact on the proceedings if the jury has called for an indictment.

I am a senior citizen living far from the court. I have been put on grand jury duty. This is extreme hardship for me. Can I be exempted from this duty? What procedure do I need to follow to inform the court?

Certain professions and scenarios could exempt you from grand jury duty. Some of which are listed below:
  • Elected official in the legislative session
  • Judge
  • Practicing physician or dentist
  • Active military or armed forces personnel serving in another state or country
  • Police, emergency fire or medical personnel
  • You are situated over 70 miles from the court which has issued the summons
  • You are over 80 years of age or older

The exemptions are optional implying you can choose to exercise it or not. When you receive the juror questionnaire you would need to mark the appropriate exemption applicable to you. Failure to do so would require you to discharge your duty as a juror.

If you do not fall in any of the above categories, you have the option of sending a written request to the court to abstain from juror duty. You would need to explain your personal hardship in fulfilling juror duty. For example: if you are a caregiver to someone and have nobody who can discharge that duty on your behalf or if you are disabled or have a medical condition you could be excused from juror duty.

The written requests for excusal should include all your personal details such as name, phone number, address, email ID, date you have been summoned, courtroom number, time, and so on. The request should also mention the reasons for excusal and supporting documents such as airline ticket, itinerary or doctors note. This request should be signed by you and mailed two weeks prior to the date you are required to appear in court. Usually the court would notify its decision in writing, however if you do not receive any response from the court it is likely your request has been denied and you need to appear for juror duty as summoned.

What are the consequences of not attending grand jury duty in Texas?

Avoiding grand jury duty could be serious. It could result in a contempt of court ruling. This could mean fines being levied or imprisonment (which is rare) if it is a case of repeat failures to attend jury duty. The prosecuting attorney could have a bench warrant issued for an arrest.

Being a part of the grand jury can be daunting and inconvenient to some. But it is a civic responsibility to help in the legal proceedings. Knowing the process, rights, exceptions will provide clarity if are a juror or a defendant and you can do so with the help of an Expert.
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