The Grand Jury
The County Prosecutor determines what felony charges apply in criminal cases. After that determination is made, the Grand Jury meets and determines whether probable cause exists prior to any charge being filed in Common Pleas Court. The Grand Jury is composed of nine people with six alternates chosen by the jury commission from the list of registered voters of Crawford County. The citizens who make up the jury are compensated for their time and typically meet one or two times a month for two to three hours. The Grand Jury serves as a check on the authority of Prosecutor to file criminal charges.
The County Prosecutor presents evidence and provides witnesses for the grand jury who determine whether the accused person should be tried for a felony crime. If seven of the nine grand jurors find probable cause, the jury chooses to indict the individual. If the grand jury decides no probable cause exists, criminal charges are not filed.
“Probable Cause” is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as a reasonable grounds for belief in certain alleged facts.
The Grand Jury is one of the few aspects of government required to be done in secret. Jurors are sworn to secrecy regarding all aspects of proceeding. Deliberation is done alone by the nine members outside the presence of the Prosecutor. The reason for this secrecy is to protect the accused. If the allegations are not provable the accused’s reputation could be ruined. Secondly, a person who is being investigated by the Grand Jury could flee the jurisdiction if they know they are being investigated.
The Grand Jury, made up of ordinary citizens, decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed. The rights of the accused are protected to protect innocent persons wrongly accused. The process exists to hold the accused accountable.