Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Collin County grand jurors serve many hours for community
A defendant may go before the grand jury to present his or her side of the case in an effort to keep from ever having to go to court.
People summoned to jury duty offer great services in the interest of justice, often serving long hours for a trial that sometimes lasts two weeks or longer.
But those who serve on a grand jury offer services that last even longer, serving one day a week for six months. Collin County has two grand juries that serve concurrently for six months, with one meeting on Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays.
"I believe both grand juries and petit juries perform an invaluable service to our community," said Gail Leyko, Collin County assistant district attorney who is chief of the intake and grand jury division. "Our criminal justice system could not function if we did not have citizens who were willing to serve on a jury, whether it is a grand jury or petit jury."
She added, "When grand jurors meet, it is an enormous time commitment. District Attorney Greg Willis and the district attorney's office are very grateful that we have such dedicated, conscientious citizens willing to serve on our juries."
Members of the grand jury are named every six months and appointed by a district judge.
"Our district judges operate on a rotating system," Leyko said. "They may be selected either by the commissioner selection or driver's license selection."
Through a commissioner selection, the judge appoints three to five commissioners to come up with a list of potential grand jurors, up to 40 names. Those on the list are summoned to court, where the judge selects 12 grand jurors and two alternates.
The driver's license selection is just like selection for regular jury service. The judge selects potential grand jurors from information on driver's licenses.
Once selected to serve on the grand jury, the jurors are paid $10 for the first day and $28 per day for each day they serve after that.
To be qualified to serve, Leyko explained, a grand juror must be a Collin County citizen, be qualified to vote although not necessarily registered to vote, and be of sound mind and good moral character. The grand jury candidate must be able to read and write, never been convicted of misdemeanor theft or a felony, must not be under indictment or other legal accusations, and must not be related by blood or marriage to any person selected to serve on the same jury.
The potential grand juror also must not have served as a grand juror or grand juror commissioner in the year before the date on which the term of court for which the person has been selected as a grand juror begins. They must not be a complainant in any matter to be heard by the grand jury during the term for which the person may be selected.
A case must go before a grand jury, which must return a true bill of indictment, before a defendant's court date is set. Defendants often remain in jail or out on bond for two to three months or more before their case goes to the grand jury.
A defendant may go before the grand jury to present his or her side of the case in an effort to keep from ever having to go to court. At a large number of meetings, grand juries no-bill a few defendants, including some who have come before them to present their case.
"We send notices to all defendants informing them of the date their case is set for the grand jury," Leyko said. "We cannot make them testify. It is up to them if they want to be present and testify. We also allow them to submit grand jury packets with their side of the case in written form. If a defendant provides a grand jury packet, we will pass that out to the grand jurors for them to consider prior to their deliberation."
Attorneys often make it clear to petit juries that a grand jury indictment does not constitute guilt. An indictment simply means that the grand jury found probable cause to take the matter to court.
Pegasus News Content partner - Star Local News
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