Before a person may be brought to trial, the Criminal District Attorney’s Office must present evidence to a grand jury to justify an indictment.
The Grand Jury Unit prepares and presents cases to the grand jury. This special unit is under the leadership of a chief felony prosecutor and is staffed by 10 attorneys, one from each felony court. This unit also employs two investigators, five support personnel and one court reporter.
Every year in Tarrant County, 96 people serve on eight grand juries, which are convened two at a time. A grand jury is composed of 12 Tarrant County residents who serve a
three-month term and are paid $36 a day. The grand jurors consider more than 14,000 cases each year. They are bound by an oath of secrecy which prohibits the disclosure of grand jury proceedings.
After a case has been fully investigated by the appropriate law enforcement agency and the Criminal District Attorney’s Office, the grand jury attorney assigned to the case must decide what crime, if any, has been committed. This information is then presented to the grand jury.
At least once a week, each grand jury attorney meets with the grand jurors to present the cases he or she has prepared. The presentations may be factual summaries by the assistant criminal district attorney or live witness testimony.
After the grand jury hears the evidence, it votes on the case in secrecy. A grand jury decides whether sufficient facts justify criminal charges against the accused. No one other than a member of the grand jury may be present during deliberations. It does not determine guilt or innocence.
If at least nine grand jurors find sufficient evidence, the grand jury returns a true bill of indictment. If less than nine grand jurors vote to indict, the case is “no billed.” This means that the charges are not presented to a criminal court for trial. All indictments are then delivered to the District Judge by the entire grand jury in open court.