The Grand Jury
The citizens of Ohio play an important role in our
criminal justice system. Through service on a grand jury,
everyday people instill a confidence in our society that
criminal cases are independently considered and reviewed by
Grand juries are convened by the county courts of common
pleas and consist of nine members and six alternates. Grand
jurors are selected from lists of registered voters and/or
licensed drivers. Most grand jurors serve for a period of two
to four months. The frequency of grand jury meetings can
vary from once a month to daily, depending on the case load.
A grand jury is not the same as the 12-person body that hears cases. A trial jury is technically called a “petit jury.”
County prosecuting attorneys, representing the State of Ohio,
are responsible for presenting evidence and witness testimony.
The grand jury listens to the evidence and testimony and
decides whether the accused should be tried for a felony
crime. Grand juries consider felonies, which are crimes
punishable by imprisonment. Lesser offenses, called
misdemeanors, are considered solely by the prosecutor’s office.
If a grand jury finds “probable cause” that a crime was
committed, it returns an indictment (true bill) against the
accused person, allowing the case to proceed toward a trial.
An indictment may only be found by the concurrence of
seven or more jurors. If a grand jury does not find “probable
cause” that a crime was committed, it returns a “no bill,” and
charges against the accused will be dismissed.
After all the testimony and evidence has been presented,
everyone except the nine grand jury members must leave the
room. The foreperson leads a discussion and conducts a vote.
No vote is taken until each member has been heard. The
foreperson then records the vote and files the record with the
clerk of court.
The grand jurors make a pledge of secrecy. This pledge is of
the utmost importance, is permanent and applies to all
aspects of the grand jury proceedings. Grand jury
deliberations and votes, as well as the names of witnesses and
questions considered shall not be disclosed. There are two
reasons for this oath of secrecy. First, accusations may be
brought before the jury, which, after its examination, may
deem the accusation as unfounded. If publicity were given to
the fact that the grand jury had investigated a person or
organization, their reputation might be ruined. Second, if a
person who is likely to be charged with a criminal offense by
the grand jury should learn of the investigation, he or she
The grand jury can investigate any crime committed within
the county. However, an inquiry must be crime-related and
directed by honest and conscientious motives to decide if a
person should be charged with a crime. When considering
any special investigation, the details are worked out with the
judge or prosecutor. Grand jurors may require the clerk of
court to issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear and testify. However, grand jurors are not detectives or prosecutors authorized to make private investigations.
Ordinary citizens make up the grand jury and decide whether
enough evidence exists to send a case to trial. A grand jury
exercises diligence, impartiality and secrecy to protect
innocent people from false accusations and to assure accused
persons that any evidence against them is considered fairly.
In Ohio, Grand Juries:
|• Offer citizen-reviewed, independent and impartial
screening of those accused of felony crimes.
• Are selected from registered voters and licensed
drivers and serve two to four months.
• Take a pledge of secrecy that applies to every aspect of
• Help ensure innocent persons are not falsely accused,
and evidence against accused persons is considered
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