Before a suspect undergoes prosecution, a grand jury must decide that there is probable cause to file charges. Texas law grants defendants in felony cases the right to a grand jury hearing, but this is less beneficial than one might assume.
It is a known fact that grand juries choose to indict in most situations, as acknowledged by CBS News. Why is this though? Multiple factors contribute to the high rate of indictment.
1. The influence of prosecutors
One difference between grand jury proceedings and trials is that the former takes place in a private area closed off from the public. The defense team generally does not have the right to call in witnesses or provide evidence, and most of the time the defendant’s counsel must remain outside. The prosecutors may do so without any legal responsibility to inform the accused. While they may choose to allow a representative from the defense team in the room to address the grand jury, certain counties strictly ban the defendant’s legal counsel from entering. They may also exclude exculpatory proof. As a result, they possess a great deal of influence over the jurors.
2. Lack of unanimity requirement
A grand jury generally has 12 members. Texas only requires nine to agree for an indictment to take place rather than the whole jury (necessary to convict a person in a felony criminal trial).
3. Defense’s inability to vet jurors
The defense team does not have the right to question the jurors for bias. The identities of these individuals are also completely secret.
The defense may make a presentation to the jurors if allowed, either in person or in written form. While suspects have many disadvantages in a grand jury hearing, the dismissal of a case is not impossible.