Grand jury

Wikipedia says:

Die Grand Jury ist eine aus 12 bis 23 Personen bestehende Jury (im Gegensatz zur ‘Petit Jury’, die immer nur aus 12 Personen besteht und erst im anschließenden Gerichtsverfahren auftritt), die vom Staatsanwalt einberufen wird zur Entscheidung, ob ein Verbrechen begangen wurde und zu ermitteln, ob das Beweismaterial ausreicht, Anklage gegen bestimmte Verdächtige zu erheben. Grand Jurys gibt es heute nur noch in den Vereinigten Staaten, und auch dort nur auf Bundesebene und in weniger als der Hälfte aller Bundesstaaten. Im Vereinigten Königreich wurden sie 1933, in Neuseeland 1961 und in Kanada in den 1970ern abgeschafft.

John Sifton, a human rights lawyer, was a member of a grand jury in Brooklyn recently and describes the experience in Michael Froomkin’s discourse.net.

“You couldn’t get out of it?” friends asked. Colleagues were also incredulous. I am a human rights lawyer and a private investigator and I work on a lot of cases involving detainees at Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA prisons-facilities in which grand juries are not used. Few believed that prosecutors allowed me to serve. Others were amazed that I didn’t lie outright in order to avoid service, as others apparently have. (Various lies suggested: “I’m a Quaker, etc.” “I’m a vociferous racist; I just can’t be impartial,” and “I typically have to urinate every five to ten minutes.”)

The truth is, it isn’t easy to get out of grand jury service. Grand juries aren’t like trial juries. Unlike trial juries, there is no adversarial process, no judges and no lawyers for the defendants; the only officials present are Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs), who run the process with a subtle but steely fist. The ADAs aren’t as anxious about particular jurors as attorneys might be with trial juries. Unlike with a trial jury, votes are not as momentous, and a single juror is not as vital.

In conclusion:

I don’t mean to suggest we were a perfect jury. We were not. Some of the jurors among us struck me as hopelessly illogical. But at the end of the day, we made good decisions. It was fitting and proper that the State of New York and local government of Brooklyn trusted us to listen to secret information from police, and then deliberate and make important decisions about how to deal with criminal suspects.

Why the federal government can’t trust citizens to do the same with high level terrorism suspects-this, understandably, was a subject we never settled.

(Via Making Light)

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