Grand Jury Operations

The grand jury determines whether the prosecuting attorney has sufficient evidence to prosecute a suspect. Grand juries may also investigate criminal activity and subpoena witnesses and evidence. The prosecuting attorney assembles witnesses and conducts the presentation of cases; a judge is not present. Grand juries may convene for several months while evidence is gathered and witnesses questioned, or may sit for only a day. The size of grand juries across the country typically ranges from 15 to 23 persons.

Grand juries are often impaneled by a judge in a courtroom and then retire to a special grand jury room to review evidence. Present in the grand jury room are the jurors, the prosecuting attorney, the witness, a court reporter, and possibly a bailiff. An important consideration in the design and location of the grand jury room is maintaining the confidentiality and security of witnesses who may need to testify.

The grand jury room should be accessible from both the public, prisoner, and private circulation areas of the courthouse.

Because the prosecutor is generally in charge of the grand jury and is the one to present the evidence to the jurors, the grand jury room is often best located near the prosecutor’s offices. Witnesses may include members of the general public who may use the main entrances to the courthouse, undercover or secret witnesses who may be escorted through the private circulation areas to avoid identification, and prisoners who need to be brought through the prisoner circulation areas. The grand jurors and prosecuting attorney may enter the room through the private circulation corridor. If the grand jury area is located near one of the jury deliberation rooms, grand jurors might use the deliberation room as a lounge.

The grand jury room should have the character of a formal hearing room. In most courtrooms, the grand jurors are seated in the regular petit jury box, but occasionally courts have two jury boxes in the criminal courtroom: one for the petit and another for the grand jury. In single-judge and small multi-judge courthouses, one of the petit jury deliberation rooms might be enlarged and designed to accommodate grand juries, if grand juries meet infrequently. In large criminal courts, where grand juries meet regularly, a room should be dedicated solely to the grand jury. Such a room should include toilets, a witness-waiting area and lounge, a bailiff's station, a reception area, an evidence storage room, and the deliberation room and juror lounge.

Grand jury room spaces should be soundproof, properly ventilated, air conditioned (with an independently controlled thermostat), and well lighted. Furnishings should be comfortable for long periods of use. Writing surfaces should also be provided for the jurors to take notes during presentations. The room should be screened from the public view.

Grand jurors' seating is frequently in a tiered arc or horseshoe, with the attorneys, court reporter, interpreter, and grand jury foreman located near the center of the arc and the witness either directly across or off to one side. A variation is an oval or rectangular table with a witness stand at one end.

Chairs for all parties should be comfortable and able to swivel. The prosecutor should be seated at a table, and there should be a lectern for use when questioning witnesses. Other work stations include the court reporter and electronic recording areas with writing surfaces. The grand jury suite should also be equipped with a coffee bar, small refrigerator, counter, and cupboards.

The grand jury area should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and accommodate wheelchairs. Access to and from the courtroom should be barrier free. Refreshment areas, kitchenette, coat storage, toilets, etc. must be fully accessible; An assistive listening system should be installed.

The grand jury room should be private and secure. On occasion, secret witnesses will be interviewed by the grand jury, and there is a need to protect their identity. Such witnesses should be able to get to the grand jury room without going through the public corridors. The grand jury spaces may be provided with windows for visual relief, unless they are located on the ground floor where the public could see or hear the proceedings. Ground-level jury spaces should be private and soundproof.

The grand jury area should consist, at a minimum, of a grand jury hearing room, entry vestibule, waiting areas for sequestered witnesses, a reception/waiting room, and two restrooms. An interview room and juror lounge may also be included, or a jury deliberation room may be used if access is limited.

The grand jury hearing room should be approximately 600 to 800 square feet, depending upon the number of jurors. It may be calculated at 30 to 40 square feet per person. The entry vestibule should be a minimum 40 to 80 square feet. The witness-waiting areas may range in size from 100 to 240 square feet. The reception/waiting room should be approximately 150 square feet, with two restrooms. The interview room should be approximately 100 square feet.

The room should have appropriate electrical outlets. There should be cable runs installed for video display monitors and audio-recording and playback equipment to allow jurors to view taped evidence and review transcripts.