Grand Jury

Grand jury deliberations are shrouded in mystery.

Defense lawyers are not allowed to be in the room. There is no judge. The entire proceedings are run by the prosecution. And when the grand jury convenes to decide on whether or not to indict a case, the prosecutor must leave the room.

Of all areas of law, very little is written on the practical workings of the grand jury. It is the most significant check on the power of the prosecution, but it is often criticized as being nothing more than a rubber stamp for approving indictments.

This doesn't have to be the case.

In 2005, David Gonzalez was selected to serve on the grand jury. For three months he recused himself (and the Firm) from a substantial amount of business in exchange for a lifelong lesson in the inner workings of the grand jury. As the assistant foreperson, Mr. Gonzalez participated in the discussion of thousands of cases. The experience provided an invaluable lesson on what jurors find persuasive and what they consider inexcusable. He realized that many of his own assumptions about crime and defendants were incorrect, and he found himself becoming far more conservative in areas that he previously thought he was liberal.

The Firm frequently relies upon the power of the grand jury to investigate and filter out cases that should not be indicted. More recently, Kristin Etter spent weeks preparing for and defending a client subpoenaed by the grand jury against her will. While other people who refused to testify were held in contempt of court, Ms. Etter's advice enabled her client to properly invoke her Fifth Amendment rights without being held in criminal contempt.

© 2014 Sumpter & González , L.L.P.
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206 East 9th Street, Suite 1511
Austin, TX 78701

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