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Who serves on a grand jury?
 

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As the previous section explains, a grand jury is chosen from the same pool of people that provide trial jurors.  Consequently grand juries tend to be composed of the same kinds of people who serve on regular, trial juries (like the juries in the O.J. Simpson civil and criminal cases).   This is a typical group of state grand jurors:

 

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Here is another, equally typical, group of state grand jurors:

 

        There can be one important difference between trial jurors and grand jurors:   Because (as the first section of the FAQ's explains) grand juries tend to sit for a long time, grand jurors are often retired people or others whose work or home schedules allow them to spend the time required to serve on a grand jury.   Most trials are relatively brief (a few days or a week, at most), so while serving on a trial jury is a burden, it is not as great a burden as serving on a grand jury that may sit for two or even three years (if it is a federal grand jury).

        Years ago, there used to be what were called "blue ribbon grand juries." These were grand juries that were made up of "prominent" people in the community, such as doctors, lawyers, and successful businessmen. Blue ribbon grand juries were usually convened to investigate particular problems--like official corruption--in a community.  They can't be used any more to investigate crime and charge people with committing crimes, because the U.S. Supreme Court said that grand juries who consider criminal charges have to be composed of jurors who were randomly selected from a "fair cross-section" of the local community.  I have, however, seen recent newspaper articles referring to "blue ribbon" grand juries in California; if they are being used there, they would have to be used to investigate civil matters--otherwise, they'd violate the Supreme Court's rule on choosing grand jurors.

        To implement the Supreme Court's decree that grand juries be chosen from a "fair cross-section" of the community, grand juries are made up of people whose names were randomly chosen from a source that is designed to include as many people as possible. The federal system and many states use lists of registered voters as the source for potential grand jurors (as well as trial jurors).  But states can also use other sources, like lists of people who have driver's licenses, as long as the source doesn't unfairly eliminate certain kinds of people.  For example, a state couldn't use lists of people who own real estate, because this would unfairly discriminate against people who do not, either because they can't afford to own real estate or choose not to. 

        All the states and the federal system automatically excuse certain kinds of people from serving on grand juries.  People over a certain age, people who have to care for ill or otherwise incapacitated dependents or people who serve in public safety professions are usually automatically excused from serving. In addition, other people can be excused if they convince the court selecting grand jurors that serving would be a hardship for them, either because of their commitments at work or because of family obligations.  At one time, most states excluded lawyers and judges from serving on grand juries or on trial juries, but many states have eliminated that exclusion, so they can serve.

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