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What’s the role of the jury in criminal cases?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

A person who’s facing the possibility of criminal charges may learn their case is going before the grand jury. There’s some misconception about what this means because it’s sometimes confused with the trial jury. Understanding the different roles between these two types of juries is beneficial. 

Simply put, a grand jury is a group of citizens who determine if there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. A trial jury decides whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty of the crime for which they have been charged. 

What is a grand jury?

A grand jury is larger than a trial jury. It usually consists of 16 to 23 members. Unlike a trial jury, the grand jury operates in a private, inquisitive proceeding. One of their primary functions is to examine the evidence presented by a prosecutor and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused person committed a crime. The grand jury doesn’t determine whether a person is guilty or not guilty, and the decision of the grand jury isn’t binding.

What is a trial jury?

A trial jury is usually composed of 6 to 12 members tasked with determining if a person is guilty of charges levied against them. This jury is presented with evidence, including testimony and documentation, from the prosecution and the defense during a public trial. The trial jury’s decision is binding unless it’s invalidated during an appeal.

Defendants who are developing a defense strategy are preparing this for the jury trial. Working with someone familiar with the criminal charges at the heart of the case may provide the defendant with information to help them decide on the strategy.