WHAT IS A GRAND JURY?
A grand jury is a group of no fewer than 16 and no more than 23 persons, which is convened by a superior court. Grand Jury investigates offenses by hearing and examining evidence to determine whether to permit prosecution of those offenses.
- The district attorney;
- A clerk or other public servant authorized to assist the grand jury in the administrative conduct of its proceedings;
- A stenographer;
- An interpreter;
- A public servant holding a witness in custody;
- An attorney representing a witness who has signed a waiver of immunity, while that witness is present;
- A video operator;
- A social worker, rape crisis counselor, psychologist, or other professional providing emotional support to a child witness 12 years old or younger who is called to give evidence in a grand jury proceeding concerning a certain crimes
GRAND JURY PROCEEDINGS ARE HELD IN SECRET
The law provides that the proceedings of the grand jury are secret and that no grand juror and none of the persons present at the grand jury proceeding may disclose the nature of the substance of any grand jury testimony, or any decision, result or other matter attending a grand jury proceeding” except in the lawful discharge of his duties or upon written order of the court.
In the words of New York Court of Appeals, the reasons for imposing secrecy upon grand jury proceedings are (1) to prevent flight by a defendant who is about to be indicted, (2) to protect grand juries from interference from those under investigation, (3) to prevent subornation of perjury and tampering with prospective witnesses at any trial held as a result of indictments returned by the grand jury; (4) to protect an innocent person from unfounded accusations if no indictment is returned; and (5) to assure prospective witnesses that their testimony will not be disclosed so that they will be willing to testify freely.
DEFENDANT’S RIGHT TO APPEAR AS WITNESS OR CALL OTHER PERSON AS WITNESS
New York law provides that, if a criminal charge against a person has been or is about to be submitted to a grand jury, that person has an absolute right to appear in the proceeding as a witness in his or her own behalf.
In addition, a defendant, or a person against whom a grand jury proceeding is pending or in progress, may request the jury to call as a witness a person designated by that defendant or such person. The request may be made orally or in writing. The grand jury, in its discretion, may grant the request.
If the defendant has been arraigned in a local criminal court on an offense, which is subject to grand jury proceeding, the prosecutor must notify the defendant or the defendant’s attorney of this fact. The defendant must be given a reasonable time to prepare his testimony.
However, if at a preliminary hearing the case is referred to a grand jury, the government does not have to inform the defendant of this fact.
If the defendant wants to appear as a witness, he must file the request with the district attorney who must notify the grand-jury foreman and inform the defendant of the time and place at which the testimony will be heard.
If a prosecutor fails to do so, it is a violation of the defendant’s rights and will result in setting aside an indictment or prosecutor’s complaint. In this case, the defendant’s attorney must file a motion to dismiss indictment or prosecutor’s information within 5 days of the arraignment.
HOW MANY JURORS MUST BE PRESENT
The law provides that at least 16 jurors must be present at the proceedings of a grand jury to validate the jury’s actions.
Twelve jurors must concur in the finding of an indictment, a direction to file a prosecutor’s information (complaint), a decision to submit a grand jury report, or any other affirmative official action or decision.
WHO MAY BE PRESENT AT THE GRAND JURY PROCEEDING
Under New York law, only the jurors may be present in the grand jury room while the jury is deliberating and voting.
New York Criminal Attorneys of Norman Spencer Law Group represented numerous individuals in criminal grand jury investigations and proceedings. If you are facing a criminal investigations, please contact our defense team right away to set up a confidential consultation.