Professor Explains Steps in State Grand Jury Process, Post Fergu - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |

Professor Explains Steps in State Grand Jury Process, Post Ferguson Decision

By Alicia Neaves
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - It was an emotional night for the family of Ferguson teen, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer back in August.

"I been here my whole life. I ain't never had to go through nothing like this. None of y'all know me but I didn't do nothing to nobody. Anybody say so, they a liar," Brown's family said.

On Monday night, a grand jury decided that officer Darren Wilson will not be facing any charges for the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Instead of a peaceful protest on Monday night, riots broke out. Buildings caught fire and at least 12 of them were destroyed. There was looting and even gunfire ringing out.

Police were forced to use tear gas to get the demonstrators away. The 'no bill' decision from the grand jury came after 70 hours of testimony from 60 different witnesses.

To get a feel of exactly how this jury process works, NewsWest 9 set out to investigate.

The state grand jury took three months to listen to all the evidence and come up with their decision.

To learn more, NewsWest 9 headed to Odessa College to speak with a professor who explains how the state grand jury is selected and what could be the next steps in this ongoing federal investigation.

"Grand juries are impaneled to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed in a trial, usually in a criminal case. Sometimes in a civil case, but most of the time it's a criminal case," Glen Findley, Professor of Government and History at Odessa College, said.

Professor Findley helps break down the state grand jury process using Texas as an example. He says each process might differ slightly but they all have the same goal: To serve an indictment or 'no bill' the defendant.

"Sometimes in Texas, the prosecuting attorney or district attorney can call for an indictment and 95% of the time they'll get it. But there are exceptions like we saw yesterday (Monday) in Missouri," Findley said.

It starts with a state district judge who will select a panel of two to five people. They will make up the grand jury commission. These individuals will then choose a pool of 15-20 people, 12 of which will make up the grand jury panel.

"When the pool is chosen, they try to make it as diverse as possible. I'm sure they did the same thing in Ferguson. They try to make it as diverse as possible in regards to gender, age, ethnicity, all those sorts of things. You do the best you can," Findley said.

In the Michael Brown case, the grand jury met on 25 separate days and heard 70 hours of testimony from 60 different witnesses. When it's time to make a decision, the grand jury needs nine votes to indict. If indicted, a trial will begin.

"Once they hear the evidence, then the grand jury decides, if there is enough evidence to proceed, then that's called an indictment. They will indict, or it's called a true bill. if they decide there's not enough evidence to proceed, it's called a no bill," Findley said.

Professor Findley says in Texas, the defendant's lawyer can not be present in the grand jury portion but the defendant can and the length of the investigation depends on the amount of evidence.
As for what's next in this investigation, there are a few possibilities.

"If somebody suspects there's a civil rights violation of some sort, it could end up in federal court. Then it will go to federal court. If it's appealed, it goes to Circuit Court then the Supreme Court. Anything can happen," Findley said.

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