Tamir Rice Case: Understanding the grand jury process - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Tamir Rice Case: Understanding the grand jury process

Grand juries have huge power and can subpoena their own witnesses. (Source: WOIO) Grand juries have huge power and can subpoena their own witnesses. (Source: WOIO)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

The grand jury concept in America is as old as the country. It is intended to give ordinary citizens, who are called to serve, a measure of control over government. It forces police and prosecutors to show that they have enough evidence before they proceed with the next step against a person: a trial.

The Tamir Rice case is a hot topic right now. Most have seen the grainy video of the shooting, but not because it came out of the grand jury; it was part of the sheriff's investigation. 

Nothing presented to a grand jury is ever made public after it is presented. That happens at trial if a person is indicted. 

The secrecy of the grand jury has been criticized, but serves several purposes, according to Case Western Reserve University law professor, Carmen Naso. Naso says if it was a public process, people might disappear rather than testify, others might try and influence witnesses. Since all cases aren't indictments, the secrecy protects those investigated, not charged.

Naso cautions against making judgments solely on the video in the Tamir Rice case.

“There's obviously more there than the public has been exposed to and that's why I feel a case like this should be presented to a grand jury,” Naso explained.

A case in point is the sheriff's investigation. Portions are heavily redacted, but the grand jury will see the blacked out information.

Grand juries have huge power and can subpoena their own witnesses if questions arise.  

A grand jury is made up of nine voting members and five alternates. It takes seven votes to indict someone. 

They meet twice a week for a four-month term, but that time period can be extended.

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