Our firm was proud to recently hear from Attorney Ian N. Friedman on Channel 3 News on the subject of grand juries and trial juries, specifically as they relate to the Ferguson case. Attorney Friedman shared some helpful insights that gave the community a better perspective on the functions of each jury.
He explained that a trial jury is when the defense lawyers and prosecutors both argue their cases as it relates to the defendant in question. The ultimate goal in this setting is to declare the defendant guilty or not guilty. The proof presented must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the offense.
Grand juries, Attorney Friedman went on to say, are based solely around the prosecution team. The prosecutors work to present enough evidence in order to establish probable cause.
Friedman said that one of the biggest differences between a trial and grand jury is their availability to the public. Anyone is welcome to attend a trial jury, but the same is not true for grand juries. The latter is generally secret and the defense team is only welcome if invited at the discretion of the prosecutor. Attorney Friedman made it clear that the defense team does not have the right to go before the grand jury of their own accord.
When asked about the size of a grand jury, Attorney Friedman said that most range from 14 to 23 members. In our county, grand juries are typically made up of 14 people.
What about Ferguson?
The news anchor went on to ask Attorney Friedman about grand juries and their relation to the Ferguson, Missouri case. "Is there any push to get a decision because it is such a hot issue in the community?"
Friedman answered that it depends who you ask – of course the community would say yes, they want a decision as soon as possible. This pressure does not always make it easy on the prosecutor's office and the grand jury. "We should not be rushing just to satisfy the needs of some," said Friedman, "this has to be done right."
Attorney Friedman is not surprised that these kinds of cases are being presented before the grand jury, as that is its original function – to investigate cases. The grand jury is extremely beneficial both in charging the defendant and in the investigative process.
Said Friedman, "I guess I'm surprised that we're getting them all here at once in Cleveland, but that doesn't surprise me overall in the grand scale."