What is a Grand Jury?
There are two different kinds of juries we deal with in the Texas criminal justice system: grand juries; and petit juries. The jury we see most often on TV and that we are most familiar with is the “petit jury.” We just call this a “Jury.” The grand jury is a group of citizens that are tasked and trusted to conduct “investigations” and weigh preliminary evidence to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
The ideal is that a grand jury is independent of the branches of government (i.e. executive, judicial, and legislative). In reality, the grand jury is often directed and instructed by the prosecution. In Texas, the prosecution, or the State, is represented by a County Attorney, District Attorney, or Criminal District Attorney.
Who serves on a Grand Jury?
The district judge is charged with administering the process for selecting the grand jury. Prospective grand jurors are summoned in the same way jurors for civil trials are summoned. (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 19.01). Those summoned are placed under oath and questioned by the judge.
From those prospective grand jurors, the district court determines who is qualified and from the qualified people summoned, the grand jury is formed. Someone may serve as a grand jury if the person is:
- is at least 18 years old;
- is a United States citizen;
- is a resident of Texas, and of the county in which the person is to serve;
- without regard to whether the person is registered, is qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which the grand jury is sitting;
- is of sound mind and good moral character;
- is able to read and write;
- has not been convicted of misdemeanor theft or a felony;
- is not under indictment or other legal accusation for misdemeanor theft or a felony;
- is not a family member of another member of the grand jury;
- has not served as grand juror within the previous year; and
- is not an alleged victim in any of the cases to be heard by that particular grand jury.
Who is excused from service on the grand jury?
If someone is qualified, the person may still be excused for several reasons. The following qualified people may be excused from grand jury service:
- someone older than 70 years;
- a person responsible for caring for a child;
- a public or private secondary school student;
- someone enrolled and in actual attendance at an institution of higher education; and
- any other person that the court determines has a reasonable excuse from service.
(Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 19.25). – [Repealed Effective1/1/2021] Excuses From Service
How many people serve on a grand jury?
Twelve people serve on a Texas grand jury.
However, the grand jury can conduct business with nine members present.
Do Texas grand juries take an oath?
Yes, someone serving on a Texas grand jury must take an oath. The following oath is administered:
“You solemnly swear that you will diligently inquire into, and true presentment make, of all such matters and things as shall be given you in charge; the State’s counsel, your fellows and your own, you shall keep secret, unless required to disclose the same in the course of a judicial proceeding in which the truth or falsity of evidence given in the grand jury room, in a criminal case, shall be under investigation. You shall present no person from envy, hatred or malice; neither shall you leave any person unpresented for love, fear, favor, affection or hope of reward; but you shall present things truly as they come to your knowledge, according to the best of your understanding, so help you God.” (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 19.34).
What you should do if you’re facing a Grand Jury Indictment
A grand jury indictment in Texas is serious. Texas felony charges are severe and can have serious consequences for the defendant. In order to provide a fair and just vote, jurors are called upon to listen to the prosecution and view the evidence provided by the prosecutor to then weigh in. A grand jury is different from a trial jury in that a grand jury helps the prosecutor decide whether to file charges against a suspect of a crime. The defendant doesn’t participate during a grand jury as it acts as a test-run for a trial. However, having an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can greatly impact the outcome of the case before the charges are even filed.
Hire the Best Defense Attorney to fight Felony Charges
If you need help fighting your felony charges in Tarrant County, the Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys at Cofer Luster Law Firm, P.C. are here to help. We will advise you on the best course of action to fight any felony charges. Located conveniently in downtown Fort Worth right next to the Tarrant county jail, our experienced attorneys handle a wide variety of criminal cases including DWI/DUI, assault/family violence, and other misdemeanors and felonies. Call (682) 777-3336 to schedule a consultation with a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney.