What is the difference between a trial jury and a grand jury?

What is the difference between a trial jury and a grand jury?

A lot of confusion exists about the difference between a trial jury and a grand jury, as well as their respective roles in a New York criminal case. Let’s define each one and take a close look at how they work in the criminal justice system.

Trial juries

When you watch a news report or courtroom drama on television, you’re seeing the trial jury. Usually, twelve people are selected to decide whether a specific defendant is guilty or not guilty of a felony, all of them members of the community drawn from a jury pool. The trial takes place in a public courtroom in front of a judge, who has control over the proceedings.

A trial jury does not usually get to ask questions of any witnesses, and has no input into the trial itself.  (Some states, not NY, allow jurors to pose questions) Once all of the evidence has been presented and the attorneys for both sides have made their closing arguments, the judge gives instructions to the jury on how the laws of New York apply to the case. The jury then retires to deliberate.

A conviction results only if all 12 jurors believe the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot reach a unanimous decision, then a hung jury results and a mistrial is declared. The case may be tried again before a new jury at a later date or the prosecution may opt to not pursue the case further.

Grand juries

Grand juries are empaneled for a specific term of months, weeks, or days, and hear several cases during that time. Unlike trial juries, they do not deliver a verdict and simply serve as a starting point in a criminal prosecution.

A New York grand jury consists of a body of 23 citizens summoned to decide whether or not a person should be indicted, or formally charged with a crime. They also differ from trial juries in that the proceedings are not open to the public, so that often the party being investigated does not know that they are under suspicion. Grand jurors are also allowed to question witnesses while trial jurors are not.

In a grand jury proceeding, the only parties present in the room are the jurors, the prosecutor in charge of the case, the witness giving testimony, and the court reporter who documents everything. If the grand jury returns an indictment after hearing the prosecution evidence, then the defendants are arrested and the case proceeds to trial.

If you have been indicted and are facing a criminal trial, or received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury, then contact a New York City criminal defense attorney who can properly prepare you for both types of appearances. Julie Rendelman is a lawyer with more than 20 years of legal experience who offers free consultations to those who have been charged with a crime or are concerned that they may be. She can help prevent you from making mistakes that could affect the rest of your life. Call 212-951-1232 or visit www.RendelmanLaw.com.