Impaneling A Grand Jury: 5 Things You Need To Know

Impaneling A Grand Jury, Robert Mueller
NPR.org

What Does Impaneling A Grand Jury Mean?

As many of your saw, Wall Street Journal reported that special counsel Robert Mueller (Former FBI Director) has impaneled a grand jury to investigate possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The Journal reported Thursday that this move is > "a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase".

To start, the word impaneling simply means to "enlist or enroll". So in more detailed terms: special counsel Robert Mueller has enlisted the Washington grand jury to investigate Russia's roll in the United States 2016 presidential election.

Here are the 5 things you need to know about impaneling a grand jury!

1. Grand juries determine a defendant's guilt or innocence

The grand jury, whose proceedings take place in secret, is a frequently misunderstood and sometimes controversial institution. One source of controversy is the one-sided nature of a grand jury presentation. The grand jury generally hears only from the government. The prosecutor presents the witnesses, documents and other evidence and ultimately asks the grand jury to return an indictment if the evidence establishes probable cause. The defense has no right to call witnesses or otherwise present its case. There is no defense attorney to object, cross-examine, or offer contrary evidence. The defendant himself has no right to testify.

2. Potential Defendants, the person or people against whom charges might be pressed, are not allowed to attend grand jury proceedings

In general, there simply is no "defendant" in a grand jury proceeding. And, a mere suspect need not be represented by counsel in our system.

3. How does a grand jury work?

Grand jury proceedings are much more relaxed than normal court room proceedings. There is no judge present and frequently there are no lawyers except for the prosecutor. The prosecutor will explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. Under normal courtroom rules of evidence, exhibits and other testimony must adhere to strict rules before admission. However, a grand jury has broad power to see and hear almost anything they would like.

However, unlike the vast majority of trials, grand jury proceedings are kept in strict confidence. This serves two purposes:

  • It encourages witnesses to speak freely and without fear of retaliation.
  • It protects the potential defendant's reputation in case the jury does not decide to indict.

4. Why do grand juries meet in secret?

Grand juries are used to determine if a person can be tried for a crime. They meet in secret because they do not want it publicized that they are looking to try Person A because if it gets out Person A just might try to run off. Luckily for us, Russia can't just run off.

They decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial and the secrecy comes from protecting the right of people to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

5. Who represents Russia in a US trial?

more to come