Part 5 of 5 of my series on Grand Juries:
How can someone accused of a crime benefit from the Grand Jury process?
When someone is accused of a felony, it is often by complaint. That means the case has not been indicted yet. This is a very important stage for the accused. If he does nothing, the case will almost certainly get indicted in the near future. At that point, it is too late for an attorney to attack the case in the Grand Jury. That is why it is very important for an accused individual to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in the process. This will give the attorney a chance to prepare to present information to the Grand Jury to try to get the case no-billed (dismissed).
In Harris County, the DA's Office has a policy that on request by a defense attorney, the case will be held out of the Grand Jury and the defense will get the opportunity to either present a packet of information that will be distributed to Grand Jury before they vote, or the accused will be allowed to make himself available to testify before the Grand Jury. Most often this is done by the defense preparing a Grand Jury packet. Testifying is far less common, but occasionally the right move.
A Grand Jury packet can consist of whatever the attorney and the accused want the Grand Jury to consider. Often there will be a cover letter from the attorney, biographical information about the accused, statements of witnesses, explanation of the law, and anything else that might help the Grand Jurors get to a No Bill.
This packet gets distributed to the Grand Jurors before the prosecutor gives the government's view of the case. A Grand Jury may only take a few minutes to look at a packet, so it is critical that the criminal defense attorney make the biggest impact with a packet that will grab the attention of the Grand Jurors. A phone book sized packet will routinely be ignored by the Grand Jurors so there is an art to an effective presentation.
Presenting a packet is not always the best move. A Grand Jury packet will often "show your cards" to the prosecutor, so there is a tactical decision as to whether it is the right move for a particular case. But it is my experience that it is an opportunity for the accused that is severely underused by many criminal defense attorneys. In most cases, there is nothing to lose for the accused. If the Grand Jury indicts the case, they would certainly have done so without a packet. The only thing lost is the time of the attorney - which is likely why this process is underutilized.
As a former prosecutor I have been in front of dozens of Grand Juries. I know what works and what does not when it comes to effective Grand Jury presentations. Please call me at 713-443-2232 if I can help you with this important stage of your criminal case.