An Overview of Grand Juries
Traditionally, grand juries were meant to protect the people from unscrupulous monarchs by disallowing accusations or charges they deemed unfit for prosecution. However, over time, grand juries have become an arm of the prosecution. If you are called to testify before a grand jury, seek immediate advice from an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer regarding your rights.
Who are the Jurors?
In Massachusetts, grand juries are comprised of 23 people. The grand jurors are chosen from the same pool as regular jurors, but defense attorneys do not get to question the jurors about potential bias, or challenge the jurors selected.
What is the Purpose of a Grand Jury?
The grand jury’s job is to determine whether there is probable cause to return an indictment charging the accused with a crime, not to determine guilt or innocence. The grand jurors hear evidence only from the prosecutor, and this evidence may or may not be admissible in a trial. The prosecutor instructs the grand jurors regarding the law of the case and provides summaries of subpoenaed documents. Unless we are representing a witness before the grand jury, we have no role whatsoever in the process. Worse, grand jury investigations and hearings are conducted without any judicial supervision or involvement.
Grand Juries Operate in Secrecy
Only the grand jurors, a court reporter, the prosecutor, and the witness are present during the grand jury’s proceedings. Everyone in the grand jury room, except the witness, is legally required to keep the proceedings secret. In Federal Court, Defense attorneys are not even given transcripts of what transpires in the jury room.
Contact a Criminal Attorney
Grand juries wield a good deal of power. If you or someone you love is called to testify as a witness, or is facing the prospect of a grand jury investigation, contact an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer immediately. If you would like to meet with us for a free initial consultation, call (617) 492-0055.
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