District Attorney explains grand jury process - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

District Attorney explains grand jury process

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

The recent controversies over the grand jury decisions in places like Ferguson, Missouri and now New York City have drawn the public's attention to grand juries.

Some people are protesting their decisions.

There is a level of secrecy that goes along with a grand jury. District Attorney Ricky Smith makes the same basic message clear from the get-go with his grand juries in Warren, Issaquena and Sharkey Counties.

"I always tell them that they're probably one of the most important bodies that the voting public can serve on," explained Smith. "Because they get to see every case that I'm going to present. They get to review all the evidence of that case and then tell me whether or not I have enough evidence to go to trial."

Smith views the process as a check to the power he's given.

"The sole discretion of who we prosecute for felonies and who we decide not to prosecute is left entirely with the decision that a district attorney makes," said Smith.

In Mississippi, the grand jury can consist of 15-25 people. Unlike in a trial, the decision doesn't have to be unanimous. 

Only 12 grand jurors have to give the green light for someone to be indicted. 

They typically meet in special rooms, not a court room. And the atmosphere is more informal.

"Get to talk about the case with them," admitted Smith. "It's one of the most important factors I see with a grand jury. I can't have that kind of conversation with a trial jury."

Those conversations are a key part of the justice cycle in every district across the state.

"Without their approval, we can't prosecute a case," described Smith.

Smith says he often views the grand jury as a way to prep his case. He can find out through discussions if there are holes in the case.

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