Episode 67: Grand Jury vs. Trial Jury

Grand and trial juries are crucial in the justice system. While they have distinct differences, they work in tandem to ensure that individuals receive a fair trial and justice is served.

The American justice system relies on regular individuals to determine whether to bring charges or convict people of certain crimes. This series discusses the United States court system. Most importantly, it explains the essential roles of a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury in ensuring a fair and just legal system. Without further ado, let’s begin.

A Grand Jury comprises 16 to 23 individuals whose mission is to investigate potential criminal conduct. It is tasked to determine if the prosecution has, based on a preponderance of  evidence, established probable cause for pressing charges. The individuals under investigation and their lawyers do not attend grand jury proceedings. 

The grand jury proceedings usually involve a prosecutor who presents evidence to the jurors to establish probable cause that a crime has taken place. A unanimous decision is not required to decide whether to indict, which means the majority always has it. The grand jury’s decision to indict opens the opportunity for criminal trials, leading to a trial jury’s selection.

Trial juries are composed of 12 people who decide whether the accused individual is guilty or innocent. They hear evidence from the prosecution and the defense attorney and evaluate them to determine guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Unlike the Grand Jury decision, a trial jury conviction must be based on a unanimous decision. All 12 jurors must decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges brought against them.

Grand juries review evidence that the prosecution may have not obtained legally. Trial jurors, however, only have access to proof lawfully obtained by the prosecution and defense. A grand jury may request additional evidence before making a decision. In contrast, trial jurors will base their decision solely on the evidence that the prosecution and the defense present during the trial.

In summary, grand juries and trial juries are essential components of the American justice system. Grand juries determine whether to indict. In contrast, trial juries determine whether the accused is guilty or innocent.

Bobb Rousseau, PhD
Host of Apostrophe Podcast