Bay News 9 aired a discussion I had with Al Ruechel about the grand jury impaneled in the Trump-Russia collusion case. I don’t have a link, so if you’d like to see the interview, you’ll have to watch it with me on my TV (via Youtube):
- A federal grand jury is a group of 23 people impaneled to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing, but primarily to decide whether to indict (meaning formally charge) a person — and thereby formally accuse that person of committing a crime. The result of an indictment is that the indicted person changes from target to defendant, and the case proceeds to trial.
- The standard for indicting someone is called probable cause: the determination that, under the totality of the evidence presented, a reasonable person would conclude that it is more probable than not that 1) a crime was committed, and 2) the defendant committed it.
- Now, about that totality of the evidence presented part: in a grand-jury proceeding, only the prosecutor gets to present evidence. A target of a grand-jury proceeding has no right to be notified of the proceeding, to present a defense, or to confront the evidence against him or her. And even if the target is called as a witness, he or she has no right to have an attorney present in the grand-jury room. (A witness does, however, have a right to have an attorney nearby and to consult with that attorney at will.)
- Yes, a prosecutor probably could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” That’s why many lawyers question the value of having such proceedings, and it’s also why many states don’t use grand juries.
- In the Trump-Russia matter, the existence of a grand-jury proceeding means somebody is in trouble. We don’t know who and we don’t know for what, but the odds are that somebody is going to be indicted.