A Grand Jury Foreman's Story...
Thank you for your Web Site. First off: your Web Site is informative and I wished the DA had given similar information to us, the people who served on the Grand Jury.
I would like to share with you a personal observation on being on the Grand Jury. I am new to the Grand Jury process-this was my first time serving. This past week I was summoned to the Grand Jury (county level) and volunteered as the Foreman of the Jury. My decision to volunteer for Foreman was based on what the Judge disclosed to us at the beginning, that I would be swearing in people the DA brought before the Grand Jury. We had two cases to hear both were criminal and one of them was about a public official.
I wish that for the amount of time we had spent on one of the cases (5 days) and for the amount of money we are compensated would have been higher, even minimum wage. Because a person's life is in our hands for a short time and we are asked by the DA to determine if the crimes have been committed by the individual, the compensation seems small. I am aware of lawyers who are paid to examine cases before trial, are paid a lot more for doing the same thing as we did on the jury.
Some of my experience as a Foreman on the Grand Jury was troubling.
I found that the Deputy DA did let us question the various people that were brought before us for a short time; for some, we got more time to question them. Yes, we can recall people again (If we remember at the end of the session). We were not always given enough time. Also, some of the people that were present before us, were a waste of time, Some of the individuals did not shed any new light or contribute information about the crime.
What I witnessed is that some of the DA's would write down some of our questions, as if using us as a pre-trial testing ground for questions to use at trial. They never said this to us; I am I am guilty of assuming this. I would like to ask is the DA given enough time to thoroughly examine his or her case before bringing it to the Grand Jury, let alone to Trial?
The other disturbing thoughts of my experience is that my role as a Foreman was not completely disclosed to me. I was told that I would be swearing people in and collecting votes. What I found. I am swearing people, which is fine. Collecting votes of fellow Jury people (19 of them) is a totally another matter. I found that because we came from different backgrounds, experiences and etc. it is difficult sometimes to keep fellow Jury people on the questions of the court, (the Draft Indictment) and not on other topics. We were told we could ask questions. But what I had experienced is that the DA felt he or she was running the Grand Jury and sometimes would not allow us to ask all our questions. As if he or she was guiding us into a direction that the DA wanted us to go in.
I felt I was imprisoned for the 5 days, like the criminals we were deciding on were treated. Only difference we could go home at the end of the day. Our coming and goings were controlled, as well as our breaks and lunch breaks.
I almost feel that an advocate for the Grand Jury should of been there to protect the Grand Jury. Someone who is knowledgeable, like your web site is about the Grand Jury proceedings, limits and responsibilities.
Positive area: What I enjoyed was the freedom to question the people the DA brought before us. Unlike in a Jury Trial, where the Jury is not able to question the various people the lawyers brings to trial. I found that the DA did and did not like all our questions. I found our limited knowledge of the law was a problem because none of us were lawyers or students of the law. Our knowledge was limited to not knowing the kinds of questions we could and should of ask. Many of us were mature adults with little experience of the law.
I wish to share this with you, for your opinion and to share with others.