Grand Jury vs Petit Jury
All of us know the role and importance of a jury in the judicial system of the country. It is a jury that sits in a court of law and hears cases and decides on the guilt or innocence of the accused. The jury comprises several jurors. One can be a part of a jury as a juror without having any knowledge of legal matters. In US courts, there are two different types of juries known as trial juries and grand hurries. Trial juries are also called Petit juries. This article attempts to highlight these differences by looking at their roles and responsibilities.
What is a Grand Jury?
A grand jury is made up of 23 jurors. The basic purpose of constituting a grand jury is to let the jurors decide if there is sufficient reason or ground on the basis of evidence to hold an accused individual responsible for a crime. When a person is accused of a crime and sent to trial, the jury has to decide if the person is actually guilty of the crime for which he is being accused. So the grand jury gives it verdict after looking at all the evidence given by the prosecutors. It can indict, not indict, or just pass. If a grand jury indicts a person, it is clear that the jury believes that there is sufficient reason to hold the person guilty and given a trial. Public is not privy to the proceedings of a Grand Jury. During the proceedings, it looks like it is a show of the state prosecutor as he presents all the evidence against the accused. However, it is the jury that remains in control as it decides the question of guilt of the accused. Defense attorney has no role to play in the proceedings of a grand jury.
What is a Petit Jury?
Trial juries are also called Petit juries. The word petit is of French origin and refers to the fact that a petit jury is smaller in size to a grand jury. However, petit does not signify any less importance of the jury. There are 6-12 jurors comprising a petit jury and these jurors are chosen at random. The basic purpose of constituting the petit jury is to hear the full case and to decide on the verdict as to whether the accused is to be acquitted or convicted as per the provisions of the law. The proceedings of a petit jury are held, not in a closed court room, but in full public view and any member of the public can observe the proceedings of the trial under a petit jury.
What is the difference between Grand Jury and Petit Jury?
• Petit jury is smaller in size (6-12 jurors) than a grand jury (16-23 jurors).
• Grand jury is constituted to decide whether there is sufficient reason or ground to indict an accused (whether or not to hold a trial).
• Petit jury can decide on the verdict of acquittal or conviction whereas a grand jury only decides if a trial is to be held or not.
• Grand jury proceedings are held in closed rooms, and the public is not allowed to witness it. On the other hand, petit jury proceedings are observed by public.
• There is no role of the defense attorney in grand jury proceedings as state prosecutor alone presents evidences to let the jurors reach a decision of bills or no bills.
• Petit jury listens to testimonies of a higher number of witnesses from both sides.