What is Grand Jury Indictment?
Before one understands how the process relates to the state of Massachusetts, one must understand the process as a whole. The indictment is a list of criminal charges brought forwardby the Massachusetts grand jury (or any other grand jury for that matter). The indictment itself is the document holding the charges. The grand jury works side by side with a prosecutor in determining whether or not to level these charges. Usually, they are only for extremely serious felony violations.
This special jury is called upon for several months in order to iron out the case and its proceedings. Although their length of stay is longer than a typical jury, the members may only be in court several days throughout their lengthy duty. The team is comprised of between six and 12 jurors.
Grand Jury Massachusetts and Superior Court
The Massachusetts Superior Court handles these formal accusations of the most serious crime in the state. In truth, the court has full jurisdiction over all criminal proceedings throughout MA, but they only get involved in a hands-on capacity for the state’s most complicated and grave of criminal actions. This Massachusetts district attorney’s office is responsible for the decision to try such grave felonies in the Superior Court.
For all other crimes, they are tried in either the Massachusetts District or Municipal Court system. However, these courts are not allowed (by ruling of the Superior Court) to try cases that feature a punishment of only a state prison term. The District Courts will try crimes that may result in no jail time at all, even if one of the possibilities is a term at such a state prison.
There is one other important distinction. The Massachusetts Superior Court can also try misdemeanors associated with these serious felonies. For instance, if one of the charges linked to a serious crime also has a list of misdemeanors attached to it, the Court will try both simultaneously. This is important to note, as a defendant won’t be tried in two separate Massachusetts courts for the same list of charges. Again, the grand jury is only an option with the most heavy of criminal activity and they are responsible for any and all related crimes, no matter the level of severity.
How is a Court Indictment Processed?
Most of the time, the alleged will face an indictment only after they were arrested for suspicion or probable cause related with the felony. However, it is entirely possible that one is indicted even before being arrested. The indictment is signed off by a Massachusetts state prosecutor by way of sworn testimony. Usually this implies several key, reliable witnesses. As such, the indictment will hold much more weight than a normal allegation in the Massachusetts court system. It’s rare to see in the state court system, but it does occur in MA on occasion. Most indictments are on a federal level.
What is the Job of the Massachusetts Grand Jury?
After the above explained indictment is processed by the Massachusetts Superior Court, a typical criminal trial will unfold. A grand jury, in short, is much the same as a traditional jury. That is, normal people from the community are called for jury duty and listen intently to the court proceedings. Their job, as always, falls on determining the final verdict of guilty” or “not guilty.”
Although an indictment is more iron-clad than an allegation, these documents are not proof of guilt. The defendant is privy to the same assumption of innocence that is present in all criminal hearings in the United States. Instead, however, of using the terms listed above that are commonplace in the courtroom, a grand jury will vote after hearing the prosecution’s argument.
As is almost always the case following an indictment, the grand jury can vote to present a “true bill” (guilty) to the Massachusetts Superior Court, that probable cause has been determined. The alternative exists of a “no bill” (not guilty). However, this almost never occurs following an indictment case.
Can One Challenge an Indictment?
It is entirely possible to challenge an indictment. Although rarely reversed, the trial judge will listen to the plea of the defendant that a lack of evidence was presented for a ruling of probable cause. In this case, the court system will use the “grand jury minutes” in combination with testimony to make a final verdict.
Prosecutors will most likely not sign off on the indictment unless the case is open and shut. However, Massachusetts provides the defendant rights. The same as those present in the legal system as a whole.