Difference between Grand Jury and Trial Jury

Key Difference: The function of a grand jury is to conduct official proceedings by hearing the evidence and there seems to be enough evidence then a case will be formed. This case will then be tried in the courts in front of a trial jury. A trial jury is the one that hears the evidence against a defender from both the defender’s attorney and the prosecutor and decides whether or not the defender is guilty.

The legal system can be a complicated one, especially for a layman. There are a variety of terms and processes involved that can make a person feel helpless or tricked by the system. While, one cannot hope to fully understand the United States legal system, one can master the basis so that they don’t feel useless.

The function of the U.S. Courts is to ‘administer justice fairly and impartially, within the jurisdiction established by the Constitution and Congress.’ In order to effectively do this, the courts take the help of juries. A jury is a group of people that are selected from the regular citizens. The benefit of using a jury is that they are an unbiased group of people as they do not know the defendant and are not that well versed in the technicalities of law. Secondly, this system prevents corruption. The practice of using juries in trial dates back to Ancient Greece and 5th Century BCE.

There are two main types of juries: a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury. A trial jury is also known as a petit jury. Most people are familiar with trial juries. These are the ones that are commonly shows in shows and movies, and while they and their function are more dramatized in the shows and movies, it does remain the same. A trial jury is the one that hears the evidence against a defender from both the defender’s attorney and the prosecutor and decides whether or not the defender is guilty.

A grand jury, on the other hand, is completely different. The function of a grand jury is to conduct official proceedings by hearing the evidence that the prosecutor has amassed against a suspect. If there seems to be enough evidence and it appears that it is possible that the suspect has committed the crime, then the grand jury will allow the charges to be brought forward and a case will be formed. This case will then be tried in the courts in front of a trial jury.

 Additionally, a trial jury is usually smaller than a grand jury, as it commonly consists of 6 to 12 people, while a grand jury consists of 16 to 23 people. Also defendants and their attorneys are not allowed to appear in front of a grand jury, but instead have to submit their case to the trial or petit jury, as well as appear, testify, and call witnesses on their behalf.

While a trial jury is still used in a number of countries around the world, the grand jury is now commonly exclusive in the United States. Furthermore, the countries that do use a jury in trial use them specifically in criminal cases and not civil cases. However, juries are used for both criminal and civil cases in the United States and Canada.

Comparison between Grand Jury and Trial Jury:

 

Grand Jury

Trial Jury

Type of

Jury

Jury

Part of

Federal trial courts of the United States

Federal trial courts of the United States

Size

Consists of 16-23 people.

Consists of 6-12 people.

Public Access

Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public.

Trials are generally public, but jury deliberations are private.

Defendant Rights

Defendants and their attorneys do not have the right to appear before the grand jury.

Defendants have the right to appear, testify, and call witnesses on their behalf.

Purpose

The grand jury determines whether there is “probable cause” to believe the individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial. If the grand jury determines there is enough evidence, an indictment will be issued against the defendant.

Final outcome is a verdict, in favor of plaintiff or defendant in a civil case, or guilty/not guilty in a criminal case.

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