Grand Jury Information
Importance of Jury Service
Personal inconvenience may be caused by jury service, but if we are to preserve the grand jury as part of our democratic way of life, it is necessary that citizens from all walks of life serve on grand juries. Only a small percentage of citizens are privileged to serve as grand jurors. To serve as a grand juror is one of the highest responsibilities of citizenship, just as it is to vote or to serve in the defense of your country.
Responsibility of the Grand Jury
It is important for a grand juror to remember that they occupy an important position in the administration of criminal justice. While the grand jury is an arm of the Court, it has the right to act independently of the Court and Prosecutor, A grand juror should always act only upon the evidence received, giving each case serious and thoughtful consideration. Members of the grand jury who vote an indictment enjoy the same immunity from civil or criminal responsibility for their action as does a judge. A grand jury that acts fearlessly and conscientiously in discharging its duties will always fulfill its obligation to the public.
The Grand Jury
The Constitution and laws of Illinois provide that no person shall be brought to trial for a crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary unless either the initial charge has been brought by indictment of a grand jury or the person has been given a prompt preliminary hearing and a judge has found probable cause.
In cases presented to the grand jury, the grand jury has a dual function. It determines that a person should be charged or prosecuted for a criminal act when it finds there is probable cause to believe the person has committed an offense. At the same time, it protects the innocent from unfounded accusation of crime and from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a trial when there is , in fact, insufficient evidence to believe the accused is guilty of any criminal offense. The grand jury thus stands between the citizen and the State, pledged to bring before the Court, to answer to a charge of having committed a crime, persons against whom there is evidence of guilt and to prevent the unjust indictment of those who are accused of crime without sufficient evidence or because of private motives or popular feelings.
Selection of the Grand Jury
A grand jury is composed of 16 citizens chosen as provided by law from among the residents of the county in which it serves. At least 12 members must be present at each session before the grand jury may transact any business. Grand jurors serve until they are ordered discharged by the Circuit Court in the county. They meet at such times as the Court may direct or order on its own motion or that of the State's Attorney or Attorney General.
Organization of the Grand Jury
Before the grand jury begins its work, the Court will select a foreperson from among the grand jury panel. The foreperson presides over all sessions of the grand jury, and has the responsibility to see that a quorum or at least 12 members is present at all times. The foreperson is also charged with the duty of swearing witnesses who appear before the grand jury and with performing other tasks in connection with the voting of indictments.
After the foreperson is selected and sworn, the other members of the grand jury will then take the following oath:
"You and each of you do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be), that you will diligently inquire into and true presentment make of all such matters and things as shall be given you in charge, or shall otherwise come to your knowledge, touching the present service; you shall present no person through malice, hatred or ill-will; nor shall you leave any unpresented through fear, favor, affection, or for any fee or reward, or for any hope or promise thereof; but in all of your presentments, you shall present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, according to the best of your skill and understanding; so help you God."
Powers and duties of the Grand Jury
The grand jury has the duty of inquiring into matters relating to crime or corruption in the area it serves. This information generally comes to its knowledge in the following ways:
o Information submitted by the Prosecutor.
o Information that may come to its knowledge in the course of its investigation of other matters.
o Information called to its attention by the Court.
o Information that it has of its own knowledge.
Grand Jury Witnesses
Generally the Prosecutor will arrange to have witnesses available to appear before the grand jury and ordinarily only witnesses for the State will be called to testify. In this way, proceedings before the grand jury differ from a trial of a case. However, the grand jury itself has the right to subpoena and question any person against whom the Prosecutor is seeking a Bill of Indictment, or any other person. Also, they may obtain and examine any documents or transcripts relevant to the matter being presented by the prosecutor. The prosecutor will inform the grand jury of these and other rights prior to the commencement of its duties, and, again, before the consideration of each matter or charge before it.
Witnesses may have legal counsel present in the grand jury room to advise them of their rights. Counsel may not participate during the proceeding in any other way. If a witness requires an interpreter, the Court will authorize the presence of one in the grand jury room.
Privilege against self-incrimination
The Constitution of the State of Illinois provides that no person shall be forced to give testimony that would implicate that person in a criminal offense. Therefore, a witness before the grand jury may refuse to testify on the ground that the testimony would incriminate him or her.
The grand jury may decide that the witness is not justified in refusing to answer. In that event, the grand jury has a right to appear before the Court in a hearing where the judge will decide whether the answers that the witness is requested to give may incriminate that witness. If the Court decides that the witness must answer, the witness will be ordered to give the grand jury the information it seeks or face punishment for contempt.
The Prosecutor may decide to ask the Court to grant the witness immunity from prosecution for any criminal conduct the witness may reveal by his or her testimony. If the Court grants such immunity the witness is required to answer completely the questions asked by the Prosecutor or grand jurors. The witness may not thereafter be prosecuted for any crimes that testimony reveals.
Ordinarily, potential defendants do not appear before the grand jury as witnesses. However, when the grand jury is conducting a broad investigation of criminal conduct, people who might later be the subject of indictment may be called to testify. Such a person has the right to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate him or her. If the witness is willing to sign a waiver of immunity from self-incrimination, that testimony will be received The grand jury should seek the legal advice of the Prosecutor in dealing with a witness who may be a potential defendant.
It is important for a grand juror to avoid any feeling of hostility or prejudice toward a witness who invokes the privilege against self-incrimination. This is a constitutional right and your deliberations should not be influenced by one's refusal to testify.
When the witnesses have finished their testimony, it is then the duty of the grand jury to weigh the evidence that has been presented and to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to require the person or persons named to stand trial and answer the charge. The grand jury is the sole judge of the sufficiency of the evidence required to indict.
After hearing the evidence and discussing the case among yourselves, the foreperson will exclude everyone except the grand jurors from the grand jury room and call for a vote. If nine or more jurors vote to require the defendant to stand trial for the offense, the State's Attorney will prepare a Bill of Indictment to be signed by the foreperson and returned into open Court. If the grand jury by its vote refuses to hold the defendant for trial, the Prosecutor may prepare a written memorandum to such effect, entitled "No Bill".
Grand Jury Secrecy
Unlike many governmental bodies whose actions must by taken openly and their deliberations conducted openly, the grand jury conducts its proceeding in the strictest secrecy. No one but the Prosecutor, a stenographic reporter, the witnesses, or other persons authorized by the Court or by law are allowed to be present in the jury room. In furtherance of justice and upon grounds of public policy, the law requires that the proceedings of grand juries shall be regarded as privileged communications. The secrets of the grand jury room shall not be revealed, except by the Prosecutor solely in the performance of his or her duties, when the Court directs otherwise in the interest of justice, or when a law authorizes the disclosure. Grand jurors must adhere strictly to this rule of secrecy.
During jury service the jurors must not discuss grand jury matters with their family, friends or others. In the same way, they should avoid newspapers, radio, and television broadcasts that may feature accounts of pending grand jury matters. Jurors must base their vote only upon the evidence that is heard in the grand jury room. The opinions or comments that friends, relatives or other outsiders may offer are not evidence. No unauthorized person can communicate with a grand juror about a matter before it, no matter how innocent the reason. If jurors are asked to discuss grand jury matters by persons outside the grand jury room, they should say that the law does not permit them to do so. If anyone persists, it is the duty of the juror to report this to the Court. Violation of the secrecy requirement could subject those persons or the responsible grand juror to a citation for contempt of court.
Will I be paid for Grand Jury Duty?
The Illinois General Assembly and the McHenry County Board have established a per diem reimbursement for jury service. This reimbursement is not intended to replace daily wages. Rather, it's a token of the Court's appreciation. The present rate of reimbursement is $12.50 per day. The present mileage rate is $0.10 per mile for one roundtrip per day served. The check is mailed to the juror the week following jury service. Mileage is determined by the distance charts established by the Sheriff’s Department for service of summons between the Courthouse in Woodstock and the area in which you reside.