Grand juries serve an important function in our society but when someone gets a summons to potentially be a part of one, it may trigger some fear of what actually happens when on one and why are they considered so much different than petit or traditional juries. In order to help decipher the main differences, here is a quick rundown.
How many jurors are needed
A normal jury usually consists of 6 to 12 jurors and that will depend on how big a case is and the complexity. With grand juries, the juror load is a lot larger with a range of 12 to 24 jurors. This is because grand jury cases tend to be more involved and there needs to be more input as to whether to move forward or not.
How long you need to serve
The vast amount of normal jury cases last up to a couple of days at most with many only requiring a day to fulfill your duty. This unfortunately can be the biggest drawback when potentially getting summoned for a grand jury because while a normal trial is a couple of days max, a grand jury summons can require a time commitment of up to a year! While this will be in more of an on-call fashion and for only a few days a week, it can be daunting to think about having to report for duty repeatedly for such an extended period of time.
The goal of grand juries
While a normal jury has the goal of deciding whether or not a defendant is guilty through listening to defenses and overlooking evidence, the goal of a grand jury is much different. When you take part in a grand jury, you are not there to decide if the defendant is guilty but whether there is enough evidence to even pursue charges against them. Grand just cases tend to be for cases that are high profile and complex and for that reason, even the step of whether to go forward requires a jury to deliberate on.
What the workload is like
The last major factor that makes a grand jury very different from a petit jury is the overall workload. As said previously, with a normal jury a person is really looking at a couple of days of commitment max. This is because you would be hearing one case and when that concludes, you are done. With grand juries however you will actually have to hear many cases. This is because you are simply deliberating on whether to go forth with charges and not the actual verdict itself. This is also why the commitment can last up to a year because you report to court to hear many cases a couple of times a week until the duty is considered complete.