MOUNT VERNON — One of the essential protections afforded American citizens by the U.S. Constitution is the right to a trial by jury. A related pillar of our legal system is this guarantee in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury ...”
No one is indicted and put on trial for a felony charge in Ohio without the prosecution’s case first being upheld by a grand jury. Ohio grand juries are convened on a county-by-county basis and include nine members, one of whom is designated as the foreman, plus alternates. Their duty is to evaluate criminal charges brought by prosecutors, who work in concert with law enforcement, and to decide if there is sufficient evidence to issue one or more felony indictments against the defendant or defendants.
Grand juries operate in a bit of a legal vacuum — they hear only from the prosecutors and witnesses, with neither the persons charged nor their counsel present — and they are not empowered to render verdicts of guilty or not guilty. Rather, their important but limited role is restricted to the indictment process.
“For the most part, I find that grand jury members don’t know what to expect before they serve,” said Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher. “What I hear from them at the end of their term is that the experience really opened their eyes to some of the activity that goes on in Knox County. It gives them a new perspective on what the world can be like.”
One of the essential protections afforded American citizens by the U.S. Constitution is the right to a trial by jury.
In an age of popular “procedural” television police dramas, real-life attorneys sometimes have to deal with what they call the “CSI Effect.”
Mount Vernon Municipal Court is tucked away on the third floor at 5 N. Gay St., an address it shares with, among others, the police department and city law director.
Editor’s Note: This is a series of stories detailing the jury process including grand jury, Common Pleas Court and Municipal Court.